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Title: The Montessori Method 

Scientific Pedagogy as Applied to Child Education in 'The 
Children's Houses' with Additions and Revisions by the 

Author: Maria Montessori 

Translator: Anne E. George 

Release Date: May 31, 2012 [EBook #39863] 

Language: English 

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 


Produced by Alicia Williams, Brenda Lewis and the Online 
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This 
book was produced from scanned images of public domain 
material from the Google Print project.) 












_Copyright, 1912, by_ 

_All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign 
languages, including the Scandinavian_ 

_I place at the beginning of this volume, now appearing in the 
United States, her fatherland, the dear name of_ 


_of New York, who by her marriage to Baron Leopold Franchetti 
became by choice our compatriot. _ 

_Ever a firm believer in the principles underlying the Case dei 
Bambini, she, with her husband, forwarded the publication of 
this book in Italy, and, throughout the last years of her short 
life, greatly desired the English translation which should 
introduce to the land of her birth the work so near her heart. _ 

_To her memory I dedicate this book, whose pages, like an 
ever-living flower, perpetuate the recollection of her 
beneficence. _ 


Grateful acknowledgment is made to Mrs. Guy Baring, of London, for 
the loan of her manuscript translation of "Pedagogia Scientif ica" ; 
to Mrs. John R. Fisher (Dorothy Canfield) for translating a large 
part of the new work written by Dr. Montessori for the American 
Edition; and to The House of Childhood, Inc., New York, for use 
of the illustrations of the didactic apparatus. Dr. Montessori 1 s 
patent rights in the apparatus are controlled, for the United 
States and Canada, by The House of Childhood, Inc. 



In February, 1911, Professor Henry W. Holmes, of the Division of 
Education of Harvard University, did me the honour to suggest that an 
English translation be made of my Italian volume, "_Il Metodo della 
Pedagogia Scientifica applicato all' educazione infantile nelle Case dei 
Bambini_." This suggestion represented one of the greatest events in the 
history of my educational work. To-day, that to which I then looked 
forward as an unusual privilege has become an accomplished fact. 

The Italian edition of "_Il Metodo della Pedagogia Scientif ica_" had no 
preface, because the book itself I consider nothing more than the 
preface to a more comprehensive work, the aim and extent of which it 

only indicates. For the educational method for children of from three to 
six years set forth here is but the earnest of a work that, developing 
the same principle and method, shall cover in a like manner the 
successive stages of education. Moreover, the method which obtains in 
the _Case dei Bambini_ offers, it seems to me, an experimental field for 
the study of man, and promises, perhaps, the development of a science 
that shall disclose other secrets of nature. 

In the period that has elapsed between the publication of the Italian 
and American editions, I have had, with my pupils, the opportunity to 
simplify and render more exact certain practical details of the method, 
and to gather additional observations concerning discipline. The results 
attest the vitality of the method and the necessity for an extended 
scientific collaboration in the near future, and are embodied in two new 
chapters written for the American edition. I know that my method has 
been widely spoken of in America, thanks to Mr. S. S. McClure, who has 
presented it through the pages of his well-known magazine. Indeed, many 
Americans have already come to Rome for the purpose of observing 
personally the practical application of the method in my little schools. 
If, encouraged by this movement, I may express a hope for the future, it 
is that my work in Rome shall become the centre of an efficient and 
helpful collaboration. 

To the Harvard professors who have made my work known in America and to 
_McClure's Magazine_, a mere acknowledgment of what I owe them is a 
barren response; but it is my hope that the method itself, in its effect 
upon the children of America, may prove an adequate expression of my 


ROME, 1912. 






Influence of Modern Science upon Pedagogy 1 

Italy's part in the development of Scientific Pedagogy 4 

Difference between scientific technique and the scientific 

spirit 7 

Direction of the preparation should be toward the spirit 

rather than toward the mechanism 9 

The master to study man in the awakening of his intellectual 

life " 12 

Attitude of the teacher in the light of another example 13 

The school must permit the free natural manifestations of the 
child if in the school Scientific Pedagogy is to be born 15 

Stationary desks and chairs proof that the principle of 

slavery still informs the school 16 

Conquest of liberty, what the school needs 19 

What may happen to the spirit 20 

Prizes and punishments, the bench of the soul 21 

All human victories, all human progress, stand upon the inner 
force 24 



Necessity of establishing the method peculiar to Scientific 
Pedagogy 28 

Origin of educational system in use in the "Children's 

Houses" 31 

Practical application of the methods of Itard and SEguin in 

the Orthophrenic School at Rome 32 

Origin of the methods for the education of deficients 33 

Application of the methods in Germany and France 35 

SEguin 's first didactic material was spiritual 37 

Methods for deficients applied to the education of normal 
children 42 

Social and pedagogic importance of the "Children's Houses" 44 


The Quarter of San Lorenzo before and since the establishment 

of the "Children's Houses" 48 

Evil of subletting the most cruel form of usury 50 

The problem of life more profound than that of the 

intellectual elevation of the poor 52 

Isolation of the masses of the poor, unknown to past 

centuries 53 

Work of the Roman Association of Good Building and the moral 
importance of their reforms 56 

The "Children's House" earned by the parents through their 

care of the building 60 

Pedagogical organization of the "Children's House" 62 

The "Children's House" the first step toward the socialisation 

of the house 65 

The communised house in its relation to the home and to the 
spiritual evolution of women 66 

Rules and regulations of the "Children's Houses" 70 



Child psychology can be established only through the method of 
external observation 72 

Anthropological consideration 73 

Anthropological notes 77 

Environment and schoolroom furnishings 80 


Discipline through liberty 86 

Independence 95 

Abolition of prizes and external forms of punishment 101 

Biological concept of liberty in pedagogy 104 



Characteristics of the individual lessons 107 

Method of observation the fundamental guide 108 

Difference between the scientific and unscientific methods 
illustrated 109 

First task of educators to stimulate life, leaving it then 

free to develop 115 



Suggested schedule for the "Children's Houses" 119 

The child must be prepared for the forms of social life and 

his attention attracted to these forms 121 

Cleanliness, order, poise, conversation 122 


Diet must be adapted to the child's physical nature 125 
Foods and their preparation 126 

Drinks 132 
Distribution of meals 133 



Generally accepted idea of gymnastics is inadequate 137 

The special gymnastics necessary for little children 138 

Other pieces of gymnastic apparatus 141 

Free gymnastics 144 

Educational gymnastics 144 

Respiratory gymnastics, and labial, dental, and lingual 
gymnastics 147 



The savage of the Aveyron 149 

Itard's educative drama repented in the education of little 
children 153 

Gardening and horticulture basis of a method for education 

of children 155 

The child initiated into observation of the phenomena of life 

and into foresight by way of auto-education 156 

Children are initiated into the virtue of patience and into 

confident expectation, and are inspired with a feeling for 

nature 159 

The child follows the natural way of development of the human 
race 160 



Difference between manual labour and manual gymnastics 162 

The School of Educative Art 163 

ArchEological, historical, and artistic importance of the 

vase 164 

Manufacture of diminutive bricks and construction of 

diminutive walls and houses 165 



Aim of education to develop the energies 


Difference in the reaction between deficient and normal 

children in the presentation of didactic material made up 

of graded stimuli 169 

Education of the senses has as its aim the refinement of 
the differential perception of stimuli by means of repeated 
exercises 173 

Three Periods of SEguin 177 


Education of the tactile, thermic and baric senses 185 

Education of the stereognostic sense 188 

Education of the senses of taste and smell 190 

Education of the sense of vision 191 

Exercises with the three series of cards 199 

Education of the chromatic sense 200 

Exercise for the discrimination of sounds 203 

Musical education 206 

Tests for acuteness of hearing 209 

A lesson in silence 212 



Aim in education biological and social 215 

Education of the senses makes men observers and prepares them 
directly for practical life 218 



Sense exercises a species of auto-education 224 

Importance of an exact nomenclature, and how to teach it 225 

Spontaneous progress of the child the greatest triumph of 
Scientific Pedagogy 228 

Games of the blind 231 

Application of the visual sense to the observation of 

environment 232 

Method of using didactic material: dimensions, form, 

design 233 

Free plastic work 241 

Geometric analysis of figures 243 
Exercises in the chromatic sense 244 



Spontaneous development of graphic language: SEguin and 

Itard 246 

Necessity of a special education that shall fit man for 

objective observation and direct logical thought 252 

Results of objective observation and logical thought 253 

Not necessary to begin teaching writing with vertical 

strokes 257 

Spontaneous drawing of normal children 258 

Use of Froebel mats in teaching children sewing 260 

Children should be taught how before they are made to execute 

a task 261 

Two diverse forms of movement made in writing 262 

Experiments with normal children 267 

Origin of alphabets in present use 269 



Exercise tending to develop the muscular mechanism necessary 

in holding and using the instrument in writing 271 

Didactic material for writing 271 

Exercise tending to establish the visual-muscular image of 

the alphabetical signs, and to establish the muscular memory 

of the movements necessary to writing 275 

Exercises for the composition of words 281 

Reading, the interpretation of an idea from written signs 296 

Games for the reading of words 299 

Games for the reading of phrases 303 

Point education has reached in the "Children's Houses" 307 



Physiological importance of graphic language 310 
Two periods in the development of language 312 
Analysis of speech necessary 319 

Defects of language due to education 322 


Numbers as represented by graphic signs 328 

Exercises for the memory of numbers 330 

Addition and subtraction from one to twenty: multiplication 

and division 332 

Lessons on decimals: arithmetical calculations beyond ten 335 


Sequence and grades in the presentation of material and in 

the exercises 338 

First grade 338 

Second grade 339 

Third grade 342 

Fourth grade 343 

Fifth grade 345 



Discipline better than in ordinary schools 346 

First dawning of discipline comes through work 350 

Orderly action is the true rest for muscles intended by nature 
for action 354 

The exercise that develops life consists in the repetition, 

not in the mere grasp of the idea 358 

Aim of repetition that the child shall refine his senses 

through the exercise of attention, of comparison, of judgment 360 

Obedience is naturally sacrifice 363 

Obedience develops will-power and the capacity to perform the 

act it becomes necessary to obey 367 



The teacher has become the director of spontaneous work in 

the "Children's Houses" 371 

The problems of religious education should be solved by 

positive pedagogy 372 

Spiritual influence of the "Children's Houses" 376 

Dr. Montessori giving a lesson in touching geometrical 

insets _Frontispiece_ 


Dr. Montessori in the garden of the school at Via Giusti 144 

Children learning to button and lace. Ribbon and button frames 145 

Children playing a game with tablets of coloured silk 186 

Girl touching a letter and boy telling objects by weight 187 

Pupils arranging colours in chromatic order 187 

Didactic apparatus to teach differentiation of objects 190 

Blocks by which children are taught thickness, length and size 191 

Geometric insets to teach form 194 

Geometric insets and cabinet 195 

Cards used in teaching form and contour 196 

Frames illustrating lacing; shoe buttoning; buttoning 

of other garments; hooks and eyes 200 

Tablets with silk, for educating the chromatic sense 201 

Didactic apparatus for training the sense of touch, 

and for teaching writing 282 

Children touching letters and making words with cardboard 

script 283 

Montessori children eating dinner 348 

School at Tarrytown, N. Y. 349 


An audience already thoroughly interested awaits this translation of a 
remarkable book. For years no educational document has been so eagerly 
expected by so large a public, and not many have better merited general 
anticipation. That this widespread interest exists is due to the 
enthusiastic and ingenious articles in _McClure's Magazine_ for May and 
December, 1911, and January, 1912; but before the first of these 
articles appeared a number of English and American teachers had given 
careful study to Dr. Montessori's work, and had found it novel and 
important. The astonishing welcome accorded to the first popular 
expositions of the Montessori system may mean much or little for its 
future in England and America; it is rather the earlier approval of a 
few trained teachers and professional students that commends it to the 
educational workers who must ultimately decide upon its value, interpret 

its technicalities to the country at large, and adapt it to English and 
American conditions. To them as well as to the general public this brief 
critical Introduction is addressed. 

It is wholly within the bounds of safe judgment to call Dr. Montessori's 
work remarkable, novel, and important. It is remarkable, if for no other 
reason, because it represents the constructive effort of a woman. We 
have no other example of an educational system — original at least in its 
systematic wholeness and in its practical application — worked out and 
inaugurated by the feminine mind and hand. It is remarkable, also, 
because it springs from a combination of womanly sympathy and intuition, 
broad social outlook, scientific training, intensive and long-continued 
study of educational problems, and, to crown all, varied and unusual 
experience as a teacher and educational leader. No other woman who has 
dealt with Dr. Montessori's problem — the education of young 
children — has brought to it personal resources so richly diverse as 
hers. These resources, furthermore, she has devoted to her work with an 
enthusiasm, an absolute abandon, like that of Pestalozzi and Froebel, 
and she presents her convictions with an apostolic ardour which commands 
attention. A system which embodies such a capital of human effort could 
not be unimportant. Then, too, certain aspects of the system are in 
themselves striking and significant: it adapts to the education of 
normal children methods and apparatus originally used for deficients; it 
is based on a radical conception of liberty for the pupil; it entails a 
highly formal training of separate sensory, motor, and mental 
capacities; and it leads to rapid, easy, and substantial mastery of the 
elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic. All this will be apparent 
to the most casual reader of this book. 

None of these things, to be sure, is absolutely new in the educational 
world. All have been proposed in theory; some have been put more or less 
completely into practice. It is not unjust, for instance, to point out 
that much of the material used by Dr. Walter S. Fernald, Superintendent 
of the Massachusetts Institution for the Feeble-Minded at Waverley, is 
almost identical with the Montessori material, and that Dr. Fernald has 
long maintained that it could be used to good effect in the education of 
normal children. (It may interest American readers to know that SEguin, 
on whose work that of Dr. Montessori is based, was once head of the 
school at Waverley.) So, too, formal training in various psycho-physical 
processes has been much urged of late by a good many workers in 
experimental pedagogy, especially by Meumann. But before Montessori, no 
one had produced a system in which the elements named above were 
combined. She conceived it, elaborated it in practice, and established 
it in schools. It is indeed the final result, as Dr. Montessori proudly 
asserts, of years of experimental effort both on her own part and on the 
part of her great predecessors; but the crystallisation of these 
experiments in a programme of education for normal children is due to 
Dr. Montessori alone. The incidental features which she has frankly 
taken over from other modern educators she has chosen because they fit 
into the fundamental form of her own scheme, and she has unified them 
all in her general conception of method. The system is not original in 
the sense in which Froebel 's system was original; but as a system it is 
the novel product of a single woman's creative genius. 

As such, no student of elementary education ought to ignore it. The 
system doubtless fails to solve all the problems in the education of 
young children; possibly some of the solutions it proposes are partly or 
completely mistaken; some are probably unavailable in English and 
American schools; but a system of education does not have to attain 
perfection in order to merit study, investigation, and experimental use. 
Dr. Montessori is too large-minded to claim infallibility, and too 
thoroughly scientific in her attitude to object to careful scrutiny of 
her scheme and the thorough testing of its results. She expressly states 
that it is not yet complete. Practically, it is highly probable that the 
system ultimately adopted in our schools will combine elements of the 
Montessori programme with elements of the kindergarten programme, both 
"liberal" and "conservative." In its actual procedure school work must 
always be thus eclectic. An all-or-nothing policy for a single system 

inevitably courts defeat; for the public is not interested in systems as 
systems, and refuses in the end to believe that any one system contains 
every good thing. Nor can we doubt that this attitude is essentially 
sound. If we continue, despite the pragmatists, to believe in absolute 
principles, we may yet remain skeptical about the logic of their 
reduction to practice — at least in any fixed programme of education. We 
are not yet justified, at any rate, in adopting one programme to the 
exclusion of every other simply because it is based on the most 
intelligible or the most inspiring philosophy. The pragmatic test must 
also be applied, and rigorously. We must try out several combinations, 
watch and record the results, compare them, and proceed cautiously to 
new experiments. This procedure is desirable for every stage and grade 
of education, but especially for the earliest stage, because there it 
has been least attempted and is most difficult. Certainly a system so 
radical, so clearly defined, and so well developed as that of Dr. 
Montessori offers for the thoroughgoing comparative study of methods in 
early education new material of exceptional importance. Without 
accepting every detail of the system, without even accepting 
unqualifiedly its fundamental principles, one may welcome it, thus, as 
of great and immediate value. If early education is worth studying at 
all, the educator who devotes his attention to it will find it necessary 
to define the differences in principle between the Montessori programme 
and other programmes, and to carry out careful tests of the results 
obtainable from the various systems and their feasible combinations. 

One such combination this Introduction will suggest, and it will discuss 
also the possible uses of the Montessori apparatus in the home; but it 
may be helpful first to present the outstanding characteristics of the 
Montessori system as compared with the modern kindergarten in its two 
main forms. 

Certain similarities in principle are soon apparent. Dr. Montessori 1 s 
views of childhood are in some respects identical with those of Froebel, 
although in general decidedly more radical. Both defend the child's 
right to be active, to explore his environment and develop his own inner 
resources through every form of investigation and creative effort. 
Education is to guide activity, not repress it. Environment cannot 
create human power, but only give it scope and material, direct it, or 
at most but call it forth; and the teacher's task is first to nourish 
and assist, to watch, encourage, guide, induce, rather than to 
interfere, prescribe, or restrict. To most American teachers and to all 
kindergartners this principle has long been familiar; they will but 
welcome now a new and eloquent statement of it from a modern viewpoint. 
In the practical interpretation of the principle, however, there is 
decided divergence between the Montessori school and the kindergarten. 
The Montessori "directress" does not teach children in groups, with the 
practical requirement, no matter how well "mediated," that each member 
of the group shall join in the exercise. The Montessori pupil does about 
as he pleases, so long as he does not do any harm. 

Montessori and Froebel stand in agreement also on the need for training 
of the senses; but Montessori 1 s scheme for this training is at once more 
elaborate and more direct than Froebel's. She has devised out of 
SEguin's apparatus a comprehensive and scientific scheme for formal 
gymnastic of the senses; Froebel originated a series of objects 
designed for a much broader and more creative use by the children, but 
by no means so closely adapted to the training of sensory 
discrimination. The Montessori material carries out the fundamental 
principle of Pestalozzi, which he tried in vain to embody in a 
successful system of his own: it "develops piece by piece the pupil's 
mental capacities" by training separately, through repeated exercises, 
his several senses and his ability to distinguish, compare, and handle 
typical objects. In the kindergarten system, and particularly in the 
"liberal" modifications of it, sense training is incidental to 
constructive and imaginative activity in which the children are pursuing 
larger ends than the mere arrangement of forms or colours. Even in the 
most formal work in kindergarten design the children are "making a 
picture," and are encouraged to tell what it looks like — "a star," "a 

kite," "a flower." 

As to physical education, the two systems agree in much the same way: 
both affirm the need for free bodily activity, for rhythmic exercises, 
and for the development of muscular control; but whereas the 
kindergarten seeks much of all this through group games with an 
imaginative or social content, the Montessori scheme places the emphasis 
on special exercises designed to give formal training in separate 
physical functions. 

In another general aspect, however, the agreement between the two 
systems, strong in principle, leaves the Montessori system less formal 
rather than more formal in practice. The principle in this case consists 
of the affirmation of the child's need for social training. In the 
conservative kindergarten this training is sought once more, largely in 
group games. These are usually imaginative, and sometimes decidedly 
symbolic: that is, the children play at being farmers, millers, 
shoemakers, mothers and fathers, birds, animals, knights, or soldiers; 
they sing songs, go through certain semi-dramatic activities — such as 
"opening the pigeon house," "mowing the grass," "showing the good child 
to the knights," and the like; and each takes his part in the 
representation of some typical social situation. The social training 
involved in these games is formal only in the sense that the children 
are not engaged, as the Montessori children often are, in a real social 
enterprise, such as that of serving dinner, cleaning the room, caring 
for animals, building a toy house, or making a garden. It cannot be too 
strongly emphasized that even the most conservative kindergarten does 
not, on principle, exclude "real" enterprises of this latter sort; but 
in a three-hour session it does rather little with them. Liberal 
kindergartens do more, particularly in Europe, where the session is 
often longer. Nor does the Montessori system wholly exclude imaginative 
group games. But Dr. Montessori, despite an evidently profound interest 
not only in social training, but also in Esthetic, idealistic, and even 
religious development, speaks of "games and foolish stories" in a casual 
and derogatory way, which shows that she is as yet unfamiliar with the 
American kindergartner 1 s remarkable skill and power in the use of these 
resources. (Of course the American kindergartner does not use "foolish" 
stories; but stories she does use, and to good effect.) The Montessori 
programme involves much direct social experience, both in the general 
life of the school and in the manual work done by the pupils; the 
kindergarten extends the range of the child's social consciousness 
through the imagination. The groupings of the Montessori children are 
largely free and unregulated; the groupings of kindergarten children are 
more often formal and prescribed. 

On one point the Montessori system agrees with the conservative 
kindergarten, but not with the liberal: it prepares directly for the 
mastery of the school arts. There can be no doubt that Dr. Montessori 
has devised a peculiarly successful scheme for teaching children to 
write, an effective method for the introduction of reading, and good 
material for early number work. Both types of kindergarten increase, to 
be sure, the child's general capacity for expression: kindergarten 
activity adds to his stock of ideas, awakens and guides his imagination, 
increases his vocabulary, and trains him in the effective use of it. 
Children in a good kindergarten hear stories and tell them, recount 
their own experiences, sing songs, and recite verses, all in a company 
of friendly but fairly critical listeners, which does even more to 
stimulate and guide expression than does the circle at home. But even 
the conservative kindergarten does not teach children to write and to 
read. It does teach them a good deal about number; and it may fairly be 
questioned whether it does not do more fundamental work in this field 
than the Montessori system itself. The Froebelian gifts offer 
exceptional opportunity for concrete illustration of the conceptions of 
_whole_ and _part_, through the creation of wholes from parts, and the 
breaking up of wholes into parts. This aspect of number is at least as 
important as the series aspect, which children get in counting and for 
which the Montessori "Long Stair" provides such good material. The 
Froebelian material may be used very readily for counting, however, and 

the Montessori material gives some slight opportunity for uniting and 
dividing. So far as preparation for arithmetic is concerned, a 
combination of the two bodies of material is both feasible and 
desirable. The liberal kindergarten, meanwhile, abandoning the use of 
the gifts and occupations for mathematical purposes, makes no attempt 
to prepare its pupils directly for the school arts. 

Compared with the kindergarten, then, the Montessori system presents 
these main points of interest: it carries out far more radically the 
principle of unrestricted liberty; its materials are intended for the 
direct and formal training of the senses; it includes apparatus designed 
to aid in the purely physical development of the children; its social 
training is carried out mainly by means of present and actual social 
activities; and it affords direct preparation for the school arts. The 
kindergarten, on the other hand, involves a certain amount of 
group-teaching, in which children are held — not necessarily by the 
enforcement of authority, yet by authority, confessedly, when other 
means fail — to definite activities; its materials are intended primarily 
for creative use by the children and offer opportunity for mathematical 
analysis and the teaching of design; and its procedure is rich in 
resources for the imagination. One thing should be made entirely clear 
and emphatic: in none of these characteristics are the two systems 
rigidly antagonistic. Much kindergarten activity is free, and the 
principle of prescription is not wholly given over by the "Houses of 
Childhood" — witness their _Rules and Regulations_; the kindergarten 
involves direct sense training, and the Montessori system admits some of 
the Froebel blocks for building and design; there are many purely 
muscular activities in the kindergarten, and some of the usual 
kindergarten games are used by Montessori; the kindergarten conducts 
some gardening, care of animals, construction-work, and domestic 
business, and the Montessori system admits a few imaginative social 
plays; both systems (but not the liberal form of the kindergarten) work 
directly toward the school arts. Since the difference between the two 
programmes is one of arrangement, emphasis, and degree, there is no 
fundamental reason why a combination especially adapted to English and 
American schools cannot be worked out. 

The broad contrast between a Montessori school and a kindergarten 
appears on actual observation to be this: whereas the Montessori 
children spend almost all their time handling _things_, largely 
according to their individual inclination and under individual guidance, 
kindergarten children are generally engaged in group work and games with 
an imaginative background and appeal. A possible principle of adjustment 
between the two systems might be stated thus: work with objects designed 
for formal sensory, motor, and intellectual training should be done 
individually or in purely voluntary groups; imaginative and social 
activity should be carried on in regulated groups. This principle is 
suggested only as a possible basis for education during the kindergarten 
age; for as children grow older they must be taught in classes, and they 
naturally learn how to carry out imaginative and social enterprises in 
free groups, and the former often alone. Nor should it be supposed that 
the principle is suggested as a rule to which there can be no exception. 
It is suggested simply as a general working hypothesis, the value of 
which must be tested in experience. Although it has long been observed 
by kindergartners themselves that group-work with the Froebelian 
materials, especially such work as involves geometrical analysis and 
formal design, soon tires the children, it has been held that the 
kindergartner could safeguard her pupils from loss of interest or real 
fatigue by watching carefully for the first signs of weariness and 
stopping the work promptly on their appearance. For small groups of the 
older children, who can do work of this sort with ease and enjoyment, no 
doubt the inevitable restraint of group teaching is a negligible factor, 
the fatiguing effects of which any good kindergartner can forestall. But 
for younger children a rEgime of complete freedom would seem to promise 
better results — at least so far as work with objects is concerned. In 
games, on the other hand, group teaching means very little restraint and 
the whole process is less tiring any way. To differentiate in method 
between these two kinds of activity may be the best way to keep them 

both in an effective educational programme. 

To speak of an effective educational programme leads at once, however, 
to an important aspect of the Montessori system, quite aside from its 
relation to the kindergarten, with which this Introduction must now 
deal. This is the social aspect, which finds its explanation in Dr. 
Montessori's own story of her first school. In any discussion of the 
availability of the Montessori system in English and American 
schools — particularly in American public schools and English "Board" 
schools — two general conditions under which Dr. Montessori did her early 
work in Rome should be borne in mind. She had her pupils almost all day 
long, practically controlling their lives in their waking hours; and her 
pupils came for the most part from families of the laboring class. We 
cannot expect to achieve the results Dr. Montessori has achieved if we 
have our pupils under our guidance only two or three hours in the 
morning, nor can we expect exactly similar results from children whose 
heredity and experience make them at once more sensitive, more active, 
and less amenable to suggestion than hers. If we are to make practical 
application of the Montessori scheme we must not neglect to consider 
the modifications of it which differing social conditions may render 

The conditions under which Dr. Montessori started her original school in 
Rome do not, indeed, lack counterpart in large cities the world over. 
When one reads her eloquent "Inaugural Address" it is impossible not to 
wish that a "School within the Home" might stand as a centre of hopeful 
child life in the midst of every close-built city block. Better, of 
course, if there were no hive-like city tenements at all, and if every 
family could give to its own children on its own premises enough of 
"happy play in grassy places." Better if every mother and father were in 
certain ways an expert in child psychology and hygiene. But while so 
many unfortunate thousands still live in the hateful cliff-dwellings of 
our modern cities, we must welcome Dr. Montessori's large conception of 
the social function of her "Houses of Childhood" as a new gospel for the 
schools which serve the city poor. No matter what didactic apparatus 
such schools may use, they should learn of Dr. Montessori the need of 
longer hours, complete care of the children, closer co-operation with 
the home, and larger aims. In such schools, too, it is probable that the 
two fundamental features of Dr. Montessori's work — her principle of 
liberty and her scheme for sense training — will find their completest 
and most fruitful application. 

It is just these fundamental features, however, which will be most 
bitterly attacked whenever the social status of the original _Casa dei 
Bambini_ is forgotten. Anthropometric measurements, baths, training in 
personal self-care, the serving of meals, gardening, and the care of 
animals we may hear sweepingly recommended for all schools, even for 
those with a three-hour session and a socially favored class of pupils; 
but the need for individual liberty and for the training of the senses 
will be denied even in the work of schools where the conditions 
correspond closely to those at San Lorenzo. Of course no practical 
educator will actually propose bathtubs for all schools, and no doubt 
there will be plenty of wise conservatism about transferring to a given 
school any function now well discharged by the homes that support it. 
The problems raised by the proposal to apply in all schools the 
Montessori conception of discipline and the Montessori sense-training 
are really more difficult to solve. Is individual liberty a universal 
educational principle, or a principle which must be modified in the case 
of a school with no such social status as that of the original "House of 
Childhood"? Do all children need sense training, or only those of 
unfavorable inheritance and home environment? No serious discussion of 
the Montessori system can avoid these questions. What is said in answer 
to them here is written in the hope that subsequent discussion may be 
somewhat influenced to keep in view the really deciding factor in each 
case — the actual situation in the school. 

There is occasion enough in these questions, to be sure, for 
philosophical and scientific argument. The first question involves an 

ethical issue, the second a psychological issue, and both may be 
followed through to purely metaphysical issues. Dr. Montessori believes 
in liberty for the pupil because she thinks of life "as a superb 
goddess, ever advancing to new conquests." Submission, loyalty, 
self-sacrifice seem to her, apparently, only incidental necessities of 
life, not essential elements of its eternal form. There is obvious 
opportunity here for profound difference of philosophic theory and 
belief. She seems to hold, too, that sense perception forms the sole 
basis for the mental and hence for the moral life; that "sense training 
will prepare the ordered foundation upon which the child may build up a 
clear and strong mentality," including, apparently, his moral ideals; 
and that the cultivation of purpose and of the imaginative and creative 
capacities of children is far less important than the development of the 
power to learn from the environment by means of the senses. These views 
seem to agree rather closely with those of Herbart and to some extent 
with those of Locke. Certainly they offer material for both 
psychological and ethical debate. Possibly, however, Dr. Montessori 
would not accept the views here ascribed to her on the evidence of this 
book; and in any case these are matters for the philosopher and the 
psychologist. A pedagogical issue is never wholly an issue of high 

Can it reasonably be maintained, then, that an actual situation like 
that in the first "House of Childhood" at Rome is the only situation in 
which the Montessori principle of liberty can justifiably find full 
application? Evidently the Roman school is a true Republic of Childhood, 
in which nothing need take precedence of the child's claim to pursue an 
active purpose of his own. Social restraints are here reduced to a 
minimum; the children must, to be sure, subordinate individual caprice 
to the demands of the common good, they are not allowed to quarrel or to 
interfere with each other, and they have duties to perform at stated 
times; but each child is a citizen in a community governed wholly in the 
interests of the equally privileged members thereof, his liberty is 
rarely interfered with, he is free to carry out his own purposes, and he 
has as much influence in the affairs of the commonwealth as the average 
member of an adult democracy. This situation is never duplicated in the 
home, for a child is not only a member of the family, whose interests 
are to be considered with the rest, but literally a subordinate member, 
whose interests must often be frankly set aside for those of an adult 
member or for those of the household itself. Children must come to 
dinner at dinner time, even if continued digging in the sand would be 
more to their liking or better for their general development of muscle, 
mind, or will. It is possible, of course, to refine on the theory of the 
child's membership in the family community and of the right of elders to 
command, but practically it remains true that the common conditions of 
family life prohibit any such freedom as is exercised in a Montessori 
school. In the same way a school of large enrollment that elects to 
cover in a given time so much work that individual initiative cannot be 
trusted to compass it, is forced to teach certain things at nine o'clock 
and others at ten, and to teach in groups; and the individual whose life 
is thus cabined and confined must get what he can. For a given school 
the obvious question is, Considering the work to be done in the time 
allowed, can we give up the safeguards of a fixed programme and group 
teaching? The deeper question lies here: Is the work to be done in 
itself so important that it is worth while to have the children go 
through it under compulsion or on interest induced by the teacher? Or to 
put it another way: May not the work be so much less important than the 
child's freedom that we had better trust to native curiosity and 
cleverly devised materials anyway and run the risk of his losing part of 
the work, or even the whole of it? 

For schools beyond the primary grade there will be no doubt as to the 
answer to this question. There are many ways in which school work may 
safely be kept from being the deadening and depressing process it so 
often is, but the giving up of all fixed and limited schedules and the 
prescriptions of class teaching is not one of them. Even if complete 
liberty of individual action were possible in schools of higher grade, 
it is not certain that it would be desirable: for we must learn to take 

up many of our purposes in life under social imperative. But with young 
children the question becomes more difficult. What work do we wish to 
make sure that each child does? If our schools can keep but half a day, 
is there time enough for every child to cover this work without group 
teaching at stated times? Is the prescription and restraint involved in 
such group teaching really enough to do the children any harm or to make 
our teaching less effective? Can we not give up prescription altogether 
for parts of the work and minimise it for others? The general question 
of individual liberty is thus reduced to a series of practical problems 
of adjustment. It is no longer a question of total liberty or no liberty 
at all, but a question of the practical mediation of these extremes. 
When we consider, furthermore, that the teacher's skill and the 
attractiveness of her personality, the alluring power of the didactic 
apparatus and the ease with which it enables children to learn, to say 
nothing of a cheerful and pleasant room and the absence of set desks and 
seats, may all work together to prevent scheduled teaching in groups 
from becoming in the least an occasion for restraint, it is plain that 
in any given school there may be ample justification for abating the 
rigour of Dr. Montessori's principle of freedom. Every school must work 
out its own solution of the problem in the face of its particular 

The adoption of sense-training would seem to be much less a matter for 
variable decision. Some children may need less than others, but for all 
children between the ages of three and five the Montessori material will 
prove fascinating as well as profitable. A good deal of modern 
educational theory has been based on the belief that children are 
interested only in what has social value, social content, or "real use"; 
yet a day with any normal child will give ample evidence of the delight 
that children take in purely formal exercises. The sheer fascination of 
tucking cards under the edge of a rug will keep a baby happy until any 
ordinary supply of cards is exhausted; and the wholly sensory appeal of 
throwing stones into the water gives satisfaction enough to absorb for a 
long time the attention of older children — to say nothing of grown-ups. 
The Montessori apparatus satisfies sense hunger when it is keen for new 
material, and it has besides a puzzle-interest which children eagerly 
respond to. Dr. Montessori subordinates the value of the concrete mental 
content her material supplies to its value in rendering the senses more 
acute; yet it is by no means certain that this content — purely formal as 
it is — does not also give the material much of its importance. Indeed, 
the refinement of sensory discrimination may not in itself be 
particularly valuable. What Professor G. M. Whipple says on this point 
in his _Manual of Menial and Physical Tests_ (p. 130) has much weight: 

The use of sensory tests in correlation work is particularly 
interesting. In general, some writers are convinced that keen 
discrimination is a prerequisite to keen intelligence, while 
others are equally convinced that intelligence is essentially 
conditioned by "higher" processes, and only remotely by 
sensory capacity — barring, of course, such diminution of 
capacity as to interfere seriously with the experiencing of 
sensations, as in partial deafness or partial loss of vision. 
While it is scarcely the place here to discuss the 
evolutionary significance of discriminative sensitivity, it 
may be pointed out that the normal capacity is many times in 
excess of the actual demands of life, and that it is 
consequently difficult to understand why nature has been so 
prolific and generous; to understand, in other words, what 
is the sanction for the seemingly hypertrophied 
discriminative capacity of the human sense organs. The usual 
"teleological explanations" of our sensory life fail to 
account for this discrepancy. Again, the very fact of the 
existence of this surplus capacity seems to negative at the 
outset the notion that sensory capacity can be a conditioning 
factor in intelligence — with the qualification already noted. 

It is quite possible that the real pedagogical value of the Montessori 
apparatus is due to the fact that it keeps children happily engaged in 

the exercise of their senses and their fingers when they crave such 
exercise most and to the further fact that it teaches them without the 
least strain a good deal about forms and materials. These values are not 
likely to be much affected by differing school conditions. 

In the use of the material for sense-training, English and American 
teachers may find profit in two general warnings. First, it should not 
be supposed that sense training alone will accomplish all that Dr. 
Montessori accomplishes through the whole range of her school 
activities. To fill up most of a morning with sense-training is to give 
it (except perhaps in the case of the youngest pupils) undue importance. 
It is not even certain that the general use of the senses will be much 
affected by it, to say nothing of the loss of opportunity for larger 
physical and social activity. Second, the isolation of the senses should 
be used with some care. To shut off sight is to take one step toward 
sleep, and the requirement that a child concentrate his attention, in 
this situation, on the sense perceptions he gets by other means than 
vision must not be maintained too long. No small strain is involved in 
mental action without the usual means of information and control. 

The proposal, mentioned above, of a feasible combination of the 
Montessori system and the kindergarten may now be set forth. If it is 
put very briefly and without defense or prophecy, it is because it is 
made without dogmatism, simply in the hope that it will prove suggestive 
to some open-minded teacher who is willing to try out any scheme that 
promises well for her pupils. The conditions supposed are those of the 
ordinary American public-school kindergarten, with a two-year programme 
beginning with children three and a half or four years old, a 
kindergarten with not too many pupils, with a competent kindergartner 
and assistant kindergartner, and with some help from training-school 
students . 

The first proposal is for the use of the Montessori material during the 
better part of the first year instead of the regular Froebelian 
material. To the use of the Montessori devices — including the gymnastic 
apparatus — some of the time now devoted to pictures and stories should 
also be applied. It is not suggested that no Froebelian material should 
be used, but that the two systems be woven into each other, with a 
gradual transition from the free, individual use of the Montessori 
objects to the same sort of use of the large sizes of the Froebel gifts, 
especially the second, third, and fourth. When the children seem to be 
ready for it, a certain amount of more formal work with the gifts should 
be begun. In the second year the Froebelian gift work should 
predominate, without absolute exclusion of the Montessori exercises. In 
the latter part of the second year the Montessori exercises preparatory 
to writing should be introduced. Throughout the second year the full 
time for stories and picture work should be given to them, and in both 
years the morning circle and the games should be carried on as usual. 
The luncheon period should of course remain the same. One part of Dr. 
Montessori's programme the kindergartner and her assistant should use 
every effort to incorporate in their work — the valuable training in 
self-help and independent action afforded in the care of the materials 
and equipment by the children themselves. This need not be confined to 
the Montessori apparatus. Children who have been trained to take out, 
use, and put away the Montessori objects until they are ready for the 
far richer variety of material in the Froebelian system, should be able 
to care for it also. Of course if there are children who can return in 
the afternoon, it would be very interesting to attempt the gardening, 
which both Froebel and Montessori recommend, and the Montessori 

For the possible scorn of those to whom all compromise is distasteful, 
the author of this Introduction seeks but one compensation — that any 
kindergartner who may happen to adopt his suggestion will let him study 
the results. 

As to the use of the Montessori system in the home, one or two remarks 
must suffice. In the first place, parents should not expect that the 

mere presence of the material in the nursery will be enough to work an 
educational miracle. A Montessori directress does no common "teaching," 
but she is called upon for very skillful and very tiring effort. She 
must watch, assist, inspire, suggest, guide, explain, correct, inhibit. 
She is supposed, in addition, to contribute by her work to the 
upbuilding of a new science of pedagogy; but her educational 
efforts — and education is not an investigative and experimental effort, 
but a practical and constructive one — are enough to exhaust all her 
time, strength, and ingenuity. It will do no harm — except perhaps to the 
material itself — to have the Montessori material at hand in the home, 
but it must be used under proper guidance if it is to be educationally 
effective. And besides, it must not be forgotten that the material is by 
no means the most important feature of the Montessori programme. The 
best use of the Montessori system in the home will come through the 
reading of this book. If parents shall learn from Dr. Montessori 
something of the value of child life, of its need for activity, of its 
characteristic modes of expression, and of its possibilities, and shall 
apply this knowledge wisely, the work of the great Italian educator will 
be successful enough. 

This Introduction cannot close without some discussion, however limited, 
of the important problems suggested by the Montessori method of teaching 
children to write and to read. We have in American schools admirable 
methods for the teaching of reading; by the Aldine method, for instance, 
children of fair ability read without difficulty ten or more readers in 
the first school year, and advance rapidly toward independent power. Our 
instruction in writing, however, has never been particularly noteworthy. 
We have been trying recently to teach children to write a flowing hand 
by the "arm movement," without much formation of separate letters by the 
fingers, and our results seem to prove that the effort with children 
before the age of ten is not worth while. Sensible school officers are 
content to let children in the first four grades write largely by 
drawing the letters, and there has been, a fairly general conviction 
that writing is not in any case especially important before the age of 
eight or nine. In view of Dr. Montessori 1 s success in teaching children 
of four and five to write with ease and skill, must we not revise our 
estimate of the value of writing and our procedure in teaching it? What 
changes may we profitably introduce in our teaching of reading? 

Here again our theory and our practice have suffered from the headstrong 
advocacy of general principles. Because by clumsy methods children used 
to be kept at the task of learning the school arts to the undoubted 
detriment of their minds and bodies, certain writers have advocated the 
total exclusion of reading and writing from the early grades. Many 
parents refuse to send their children to school until they are eight, 
preferring to let them "run wild." This attitude is well justified by 
school conditions in some places; but where the schools are good, it 
ignores not only the obvious advantages of school life quite aside from 
instruction in written language, but also the almost complete absence of 
strain afforded by modern methods. Now that the Montessori system adds a 
new and promising method to our resources, it is the more unreasonable: 
for as a fact normal children are eager to read and write at six, and 
have plenty of use for these accomplishments. 

This does not mean, however, that reading and writing are so important 
for young children that they should be unduly emphasised. If we can 
teach them without strain, let us do so, and the more effectively the 
better; but let us remember, as Dr. Montessori does, that reading and 
writing should form but a subordinate part of the experience of a child 
and should minister in general to his other needs. With the best of 
methods the value of reading and writing before six is questionable. Our 
conscious life is bookish enough as it is, and it would seem on general 
grounds a safer policy to defer written language until the age of normal 
interest in it, and even then not to devote to it more time than an easy 
and gradual mastery demands. 

Of the technical advantages of the Montessori scheme for writing there 
can be little doubt. The child gains ready control over his pencil 

through exercises which have their own simple but absorbing interest; 
and if he does not learn to write with an "arm movement," we may be 
quite content with his ability to draw a legible and handsome script. 
Then he learns the letters — their forms, their names, and how to make 
them — through exercises which have the very important technical 
characteristic of involving a _thorough sensory analysis_ of the 
material to be mastered. Meumann has taught us of late the great value 
in all memory work of complete impression through prolonged and 
intensive analytical study. In the teaching of spelling, for instance, 
it is comparatively useless to devise schemes for remembering unless the 
original impressions are made strong and elaborate; and it is only by 
careful, varied, and detailed sense impression that such material as the 
alphabet can be thus impressed. So effective is the Montessori scheme 
for impressing the letters — especially because of its novel use of the 
sense of touch — that the children learn how to make the whole alphabet 
before the abstract and formal character of the material leads to any 
diminution of interest or enthusiasm. Their initial curiosity over the 
characters they see their elders use is enough to carry them through. 

In Italian the next step is easy. The letters once learned, it is a 
simple matter to combine them into words, for Italian spelling is so 
nearly phonetic that it presents very little difficulty to any one who 
knows how to pronounce. It is at just this point that the teaching of 
English reading by the Montessori method will find its greatest 
obstacle. Indeed, it is the unphonetic character of English spelling 
that has largely influenced us to give up the alphabet method of 
teaching children to read. Other reasons, to be sure, have also induced 
us to teach by the word and the sentence method; but this one has been 
and will continue to be the deciding factor. We have found it more 
effective to teach children whole words, sentences, or rhymes by sight, 
adding to sense impressions the interest aroused by a wide range of 
associations, and then analysing the words thus acquired into their 
phonetic elements to give the children independent power in the 
acquisition of new words. Our marked success with this method makes it 
by no means certain that it is "in the characteristic process of natural 
development" for children to build up written words from their 
elements — sounds and syllables. It would seem, on the contrary, as James 
concluded, that the mind works quite as naturally in the opposite 
direction — grasping wholes first, especially such as have a practical 
interest, and then working down to their formal elements. In the 
teaching of spelling, of course, the wholes (words) are already known at 
sight — that is, the pupil recognises them easily in reading — and the 
process aims at impressing upon the child's mind the exact order of 
their constituent elements. It is because reading and spelling are in 
English such completely separate processes that we can teach a child to 
read admirably without making him a "good speller" and are forced to 
bring him to the latter glorious state by new endeavours. We gain by 
this separation both in reading and in spelling, as experience and 
comparative tests — popular superstition to the contrary 
notwithstanding — have conclusively proved. The mastery of the alphabet 
by the Montessori method will be of great assistance in teaching our 
children to write, but of only incidental assistance in teaching them to 
read and to spell. 

Once more, then, this Introduction attempts to suggest a compromise. In 
the school arts the programme used to such good effect in the Italian 
schools and the programme which has been so well worked out in English 
and American schools may be profitably combined. We can learn much about 
writing and reading from Dr. Montessori — especially from the freedom her 
children have in the process of learning to write and in the use of 
their newly acquired power, as well as from her device for teaching them 
to read connected prose. We can use her materials for sense training and 
lead as she does to easy mastery of the alphabetic symbols. Our own 
schemes for teaching reading we can retain, and doubtless the phonetic 
analysis they involve we shall find easier and more effective because of 
our adoption of the Montessori scheme for teaching the letters. The 
exact adjustment of the two methods is of course a task for teachers in 
practice and for educational leaders. 

To all educators this book should prove most interesting. Not many of 
them will expect that the Montessori method will regenerate humanity. 
Not many will wish to see it — or any method — produce a generation of 
prodigies such as those who have been heralded recently in America. Not 
many will approve the very early acquisition by children of the arts of 
reading and writing. But all who are fair-minded will admit the genius 
that shines from the pages which follow, and the remarkable 
suggestiveness of Dr. Montessori's labors. It is the task of the 
professional student of education to-day to submit all systems to 
careful comparative study, and since Dr. Montessori's inventive power 
has sought its tests in practical experience rather than in comparative 
investigation, this duller task remains to be done. But however he may 
scrutinise the results of her work, the educator who reads of it here 
will honour in the Dottoressa Maria Montessori the enthusiasm, the 
patience, and the constructive insight of the scientist and the friend 
of humanity. 


February 22, 1912. 




It is not my intention to present a treatise on Scientific Pedagogy. The 
modest design of these incomplete notes is to give the results of an 
experiment that apparently opens the way for putting into practice those 
new principles of science which in these last years are tending to 
revolutionise the work of education. 

Much has been said in the past decade concerning the tendency of 
pedagogy, following in the footsteps of medicine, to pass beyond the 
purely speculative stage and base its conclusions on the positive 
results of experimentation. Physiological or experimental psychology 
which, from Weber and Fechner to Wundt, has become organised into a new 
science, seems destined to furnish to the new pedagogy that fundamental 
preparation which the old-time metaphysical psychology furnished to 
philosophical pedagogy. Morphological anthropology applied to the 
physical study of children, is also a strong element in the growth of 
the new pedagogy. 

But in spite of all these tendencies, Scientific Pedagogy has never yet 
been definitely constructed nor defined. It is something vague of which 
we speak, but which does not, in reality, exist. We might say that it 
has been, up to the present time, the mere intuition or suggestion of a 
science which, by the aid of the positive and experimental sciences that 
have renewed the thought of the nineteenth century, must emerge from the 
mist and clouds that have surrounded it. For man, who has formed a new 
world through scientific progress, must himself be prepared and 
developed through a new pedagogy. But I will not attempt to speak of 
this more fully here. 

Several years ago, a well-known physician established in Italy a _School 
of Scientific Pedagogy_, the object of which was to prepare teachers to 
follow the new movement which had begun to be felt in the pedagogical 
world. This school had, for two or three years, a great success, so 

great, indeed, that teachers from all over Italy flocked to it, and it 
was endowed by the City of Milan with a splendid equipment of scientific 
material. Indeed, its beginnings were most propitious, and liberal help 
was afforded it in the hope that it might be possible to establish, 
through the experiments carried on there, "the science of forming man." 

The enthusiasm which welcomed this school was, in a large measure, due 
to the warm support given it by the distinguished anthropologist, 
Giuseppe Sergi, who for more than thirty years had earnestly laboured to 
spread among the teachers of Italy the principles of a new civilisation 
based upon education. "To-day in the social world," said Sergi, "an 
imperative need makes itself felt — the reconstruction of educational 
methods; and he who fights for this cause, fights for human 
regeneration." In his pedagogical writings collected in a volume under 
the title of "_Educazione ed Istruzione_" ( Pensieri) , [1] he gives a 
rEsumE of the lectures in which he encouraged this new movement, and 
says that he believes the way to this desired regeneration lies in a 
methodical study of the one to be educated, carried on under the 
guidance of pedagogical anthropology and of experimental psychology. 

[1] Trevisini, 1892. 

"For several years I have done battle for an idea concerning the 
instruction and education of man, which appeared the more just and 
useful the more deeply I thought upon it. My idea was that in order to 
establish natural, rational methods, it was essential that we make 
numerous, exact, and rational observations of man as an individual, 
principally during infancy, which is the age at which the foundations of 
education and culture must be laid. 

"To measure the head, the height, etc., does not indeed mean that we are 
establishing a system of pedagogy, but it indicates the road which we 
may follow to arrive at such a system, since if we are to educate an 
individual, we must have a definite and direct knowledge of him." 

The authority of Sergi was enough to convince many that, given such a 
knowledge of the individual, the art of educating him would develop 
naturally. This, as often happens, led to a confusion of ideas among his 
followers, arising now from a too literal interpretation, now from an 
exaggeration, of the master's ideas. The chief trouble lay in confusing 
the experimental study of the pupil, with his education. And since the 
one was the road leading to the other, which should have grown from it 
naturally and rationally, they straightway gave the name of Scientific 
Pedagogy to what was in truth pedagogical anthropology. These new 
converts carried as their banner, the "Biographical Chart," believing 
that once this ensign was firmly planted upon the battle-field of the 
school, the victory would be won. 

The so-called School of Scientific Pedagogy, therefore, instructed the 
teachers in the taking of anthropometric measurements, in the use of 
esthesiometric instruments, in the gathering of Psychological Data — and 
the army of new scientific teachers was formed. 

It should be said that in this movement Italy showed herself to be 
abreast of the times. In France, in England, and especially in America, 
experiments have been made in the elementary schools, based upon a study 
of anthropology and psychological pedagogy, in the hope of finding in 
anthropometry and psychometry, the regeneration of the school. In these 
attempts it has rarely been the _teachers_ who have carried on the 
research; the experiments have been, in most cases, in the hands of 
physicians who have taken more interest in their especial science than 
in education. They have usually sought to get from their experiments 
some contribution to psychology, or anthropology, rather than to attempt 
to organise their work and their results toward the formation of the 
long-sought Scientific Pedagogy. To sum up the situation briefly, 
anthropology and psychology have never devoted themselves to the 
question of educating children in the schools, nor have the 
scientifically trained teachers ever measured up to the standards of 

genuine scientists. 

The truth is that the practical progress of the school demands a genuine 
_fusion_ of these modern tendencies, in practice and thought; such a 
fusion as shall bring scientists directly into the important field of 
the school and at the same time raise teachers from the inferior 
intellectual level to which they are limited to-day. Toward this 
eminently practical ideal the University School of Pedagogy, founded in 
Italy by Credaro, is definitely working. It is the intention of this 
school to raise Pedagogy from the inferior position it has occupied as a 
secondary branch of philosophy, to the dignity of a definite science, 
which shall, as does Medicine, cover a broad and varied field of 
comparative study. 

And among the branches affiliated with it will most certainly be found 
Pedagogical Hygiene, Pedagogical Anthropology, and Experimental 

Truly, Italy, the country of Lombroso, of De-Giovanni, and of Sergi, may 
claim the honour of being pre-eminent in the organisation of such a 
movement. In fact, these three scientists may be called the founders of 
the new tendency in Anthropology: the first leading the way in criminal 
anthropology, the second in medical anthropology, and the third in 
pedagogical anthropology. For the good fortune of science, all three of 
them have been the recognised leaders of their special lines of thought, 
and have been so prominent in the scientific world that they have not 
only made courageous and valuable disciples, but have also prepared the 
minds of the masses to receive the scientific regeneration which they 
have encouraged. (For reference, see my treatise "Pedagogical 
Anthropology. " ) [2] 

[2] Montessori: "L'Antropologia Pedagogica." Vallardi. 

Surely all this is something of which our country may be justly proud. 

To-day, however, those things which occupy us in the field of education 
are the interests of humanity at large, and of civilisation, and before 
such great forces we can recognise only one country — the entire world. 
And in a cause of such great importance, all those who have given any 
contribution, even though it be only an attempt not crowned with 
success, are worthy of the respect of humanity throughout the civilised 
world. So, in Italy, the schools of Scientific Pedagogy and the 
Anthropological Laboratories, which have sprung up in the various cities 
through the efforts of elementary teachers and scholarly inspectors, and 
which have been abandoned almost before they became definitely 
organised, have nevertheless a great value by reason of the faith which 
inspired them, and because of the doors they have opened to thinking 

It is needless to say that such attempts were premature and sprang from 
too slight a comprehension of new sciences still in the process of 
development. Every great cause is born from repeated failures and from 
imperfect achievements. When St. Francis of Assisi saw his Lord in a 
vision, and received from the Divine lips the command — "Francis, rebuild 
my Church!" — he believed that the Master spoke of the little church 
within which he knelt at that moment. And he immediately set about the 
task, carrying upon his shoulders the stones with which he meant to 
rebuild the fallen walls. It was not until later that he became aware of 
the fact that his mission was to renew the Catholic Church through the 
spirit of poverty. But the St. Francis who so ingenuously carried the 
stones, and the great reformer who so miraculously led the people to a 
triumph of the spirit, are one and the same person in different stages 
of development. So we, who work toward one great end, are members of one 
and the same body; and those who come after us will reach the goal only 
because there were those who believed and laboured before them. And, 
like St. Francis, we have believed that by carrying the hard and barren 
stones of the experimental laboratory to the old and crumbling walls of 

the school, we might rebuild it. We have looked upon the aids offered by 
the materialistic and mechanical sciences with the same hopefulness with 
which St. Francis looked upon the squares of granite, which he must 
carry upon his shoulders. 

Thus we have been drawn into a false and narrow way, from which we must 
free ourselves, if we are to establish true and living methods for the 
training of future generations. 

To prepare teachers in the method of the experimental sciences is not an 
easy matter. When we shall have instructed them in anthropometry and 
psychometry in the most minute manner possible, we shall have only 
created machines, whose usefulness will be most doubtful. Indeed, if it 
is after this fashion that we are to initiate our teachers into 
experiment, we shall remain forever in the field of theory. The teachers 
of the old school, prepared according to the principles of metaphysical 
philosophy, understood the ideas of certain men regarded as authorities, 
and moved the muscles of speech in talking of them, and the muscles of 
the eye in reading their theories. Our scientific teachers, instead, are 
familiar with certain instruments and know how to move the muscles of 
the hand and arm in order to use these instruments; besides this, they 
have an intellectual preparation which consists of a series of typical 
tests, which they have, in a barren and mechanical way, learned how to 

The difference is not substantial, for profound differences cannot exist 
in exterior technique alone, but lie rather within the inner man. Not 
with all our initiation into scientific experiment have we prepared _new 
masters_, for, after all, we have left them standing without the door 
of real experimental science; we have not admitted them to the noblest 
and most profound phase of such study, — to that experience which makes 
real scientists. 

And, indeed, what is a scientist? Not, certainly, he who knows how to 
manipulate all the instruments in the physical laboratory, or who in the 
laboratory of the chemist handles the various reactives with deftness 
and security, or who in biology knows how to make ready the specimens 
for the microscope. Indeed, it is often the case that an assistant has a 
greater dexterity in experimental technique than the master scientist 
himself. We give the name scientist to the type of man who has felt 
experiment to be a means guiding him to search out the deep truth of 
life, to lift a veil from its fascinating secrets, and who, in this 
pursuit, has felt arising within him a love for the mysteries of nature, 
so passionate as to annihilate the thought of himself. The scientist is 
not the clever manipulator of instruments, he is the worshipper of 
nature and he bears the external symbols of his passion as does the 
follower of some religious order. To this body of real scientists belong 
those who, forgetting, like the Trappists of the Middle Ages, the world 
about them, live only in the laboratory, careless often in matters of 
food and dress because they no longer think of themselves; those who, 
through years of unwearied use of the microscope, become blind; those 
who in their scientific ardour inoculate themselves with tuberculosis 
germs; those who handle the excrement of cholera patients in their 
eagerness to learn the vehicle through which the diseases are 
transmitted; and those who, knowing that a certain chemical preparation 
may be an explosive, still persist in testing their theories at the risk 
of their lives. This is the spirit of the men of science, to whom 
nature freely reveals her secrets, crowning their labours with the glory 
of discovery. 

There exists, then, the "spirit" of the scientist, a thing far above his 
mere "mechanical skill," and the scientist is at the height of his 
achievement when the spirit has triumphed over the mechanism. When he 
has reached this point, science will receive from him not only new 
revelations of nature, but philosophic syntheses of pure thought. 

It is my belief that the thing which we should cultivate in our teachers 

is more the _spirit_ than the mechanical skill of the scientist; that 
is, the _direction_ of the _preparation_ should be toward the spirit 
rather than toward the mechanism. For example, when we considered the 
scientific preparation of teachers to be simply the acquiring of the 
technique of science, we did not attempt to make these elementary 
teachers perfect anthropologists, expert experimental psychologists, or 
masters of infant hygiene; we wished only to _direct them_ toward the 
field of experimental science, teaching them to manage the various 
instruments with a certain degree of skill. So now, we wish to _direct_ 
the teacher, trying to awaken in him, in connection with his own 
particular field, the school, that scientific _spirit_ which opens the 
door for him to broader and bigger possibilities. In other words, we 
wish to awaken in the mind and heart of the educator an _interest in 
natural phenomena_ to such an extent that, loving nature, he shall 
understand the anxious and expectant attitude of one who has prepared an 
experiment and who awaits a revelation from it. [3] 

[3] See in my treatise on Pedagogical Anthropology the chapter 
on "The Method Used In Experimental Sciences." 

The instruments are like the alphabet, and we must know how to manage 
them if we are to read nature; but as the book, which contains the 
revelation of the greatest thoughts of an author, uses in the alphabet 
the means of composing the external symbols or words, so nature, through 
the mechanism of the experiment, gives us an infinite series of 
revelations, unfolding for us her secrets. 

Now one who has learned to spell mechanically all the words in his 
spelling-book, would be able to read in the same mechanical way the 
words in one of Shakespeare's plays, provided the print were 
sufficiently clear. He who is initiated solely into the making of the 
bare experiment, is like one who spells out the literal sense of the 
words in the spelling-book; it is on such a level that we leave the 
teachers if we limit their preparation to technique alone. 

We must, instead, make of them worshippers and interpreters of the 
spirit of nature. They must be like him who, having learned to spell, 
finds himself, one day, able to read behind the written symbols the 
_thought_ of Shakespeare, or Goethe, or Dante. As may be seen, the 
difference is great, and the road long. Our first error was, however, a 
natural one. The child who has mastered the spelling-book gives the 
impression of knowing how to read. Indeed, he does read the signs over 
the shop doors, the names of newspapers, and every word that comes under 
his eyes. It would be very natural if, entering a library, this child 
should be deluded into thinking that he knew how to read the sense of 
all the books he saw there. But attempting to do this, he would soon 
feel that "to know how to read mechanically" is nothing, and that he 
needs to go back to school. So it is with the teachers whom we have 
thought to prepare for scientific pedagogy by teaching them 
anthropometry and psychometry. 

But let us put aside the difficulty of preparing scientific masters in 
the accepted sense of the word. We will not even attempt to outline a 
programme of such preparation, since this would lead us into a 
discussion which has no place here. Let us suppose, instead, that we 
have already prepared teachers through long and patient exercises for 
the _observation_ of _nature_, and that we have led them, for example, 
to the point attained by those students of natural sciences who rise at 
night and go into the woods and fields that they may surprise the 
awakening and the early activities of some family of insects in which 
they are interested. Here we have the scientist who, though he may be 
sleepy and tired with walking, is full of watchfulness, who is not aware 
that he is muddy or dusty, that the mist wets him, or the sun burns him; 
but is intent only upon not revealing in the least degree his presence, 
in order that the insects may, hour after hour, carry on peacefully 
those natural functions which he wishes to observe. Let us suppose these 
teachers to have reached the standpoint of the scientist who, half 

blind, still watches through his microscope the spontaneous movements of 
some particular infusory animalcule. These creatures seem to this 
scientific watcher, in their manner of avoiding each other and in their 
way of selecting their food, to possess a dim intelligence. He then 
disturbs this sluggish life by an electric stimulus, observing how some 
group themselves about the positive pole, and others about the negative. 
Experimenting further, with a luminous stimulus, he notices how some run 
toward the light, while others fly from it. He investigates these and 
like phenomena; having always in mind this question: whether the fleeing 
from or running to the stimulus be of the same character as the 
avoidance of one another or the selection of food — that is, whether such 
differences are the result of choice and are due to that dim 
consciousness, rather than to physical attraction or repulsion similar 
to that of the magnet. And let us suppose that this scientist, finding 
it to be four o'clock in the afternoon, and that he has not yet lunched, 
is conscious, with a feeling of pleasure, of the fact that he has been 
at work in his laboratory instead of in his own home, where they would 
have called him hours ago, interrupting his interesting observation, in 
order that he might eat. 

Let us imagine, I say, that the teacher has arrived, independently of 
his scientific training, at such an attitude of interest in the 
observation of natural phenomena. Very well, but such a preparation is 
not enough. The master, indeed, is destined in his particular mission 
not to the observation of insects or of bacteria, but of man. He is not 
to make a study of man in the manifestations of his daily physical 
habits as one studies some family of insects, following their movements 
from the hour of _their morning awakening_. _The master is to study man 
in_ the awakening of his intellectual life. 

The interest in humanity to which we wish to educate the teacher must be 
characterised by the intimate relationship between the observer and the 
individual to be observed; a relationship which does not exist between 
the student of zoology or botany and that form of nature which he 
studies. Man cannot love the insect or the chemical reaction which he 
studies, without sacrificing a part of himself. This self-sacrifice 
seems to one who looks at it from the standpoint of the world, a 
veritable renunciation of life itself, almost a martyrdom. 

But the love of man for man in a far more tender thing, and so simple 
that it is universal. To love in this way is not the privilege of any 
especially prepared intellectual class, but lies within the reach of all 

To give an idea of this second form of preparation, that of the spirit, 
let us try to enter into the minds and hearts of those first followers 
of Christ Jesus as they heard Him speak of a Kingdom not of this world, 
greater far than any earthly kingdom, no matter how royally conceived. 
In their simplicity they asked of Him, "Master, tell us who shall be 
greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven!" To which Christ, caressing the head 
of a little child who, with reverent, wondering eyes, looked into His 
face, replied, "Whosoever shall become as one of these little ones, he 
shall be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." Now let us picture among 
those to whom these words were spoken, an ardent, worshipping soul, who 
takes them into his heart. With a mixture of respect and love, of sacred 
curiosity and of a desire to achieve this spiritual greatness, he sets 
himself to observe every manifestation of this little child. Even such 
an observer placed in a classroom filled with little children will not 
be the new educator whom we wish to form. But let us seek to implant in 
the soul the self-sacrificing spirit of the scientist with the reverent 
love of the disciple of Christ, and we shall have prepared the _spirit_ 
of the teacher. From the child itself he will learn how to perfect 
himself as an educator. 

Let us consider the attitude of the teacher in the light of another 
example. Picture to yourself one of our botanists or zoologists 
experienced in the technique of observation and experimentation; one who 

has travelled in order to study "certain fungi" in their native 
environment. This scientist has made his observations in open country 
and, then, by the aid of his microscope and of all his laboratory 
appliances, has carried on the later research work in the most minute 
way possible. He is, in fact, a scientist who understands what it is to 
study nature, and who is conversant with all the means which modern 
experimental science offers for this study. 

Now let us imagine such a man appointed, by reason of the original work 
he has done, to a chair of science in some university, with the task 
before him of doing further original research work with hymenoptera. Let 
us suppose that, arrived at his post, he is shown a glass-covered case 
containing a number of beautiful butterflies, mounted by means of pins, 
their outspread wings motionless. The student will say that this is some 
child's play, not material for scientific study, that these specimens in 
the box are more fitly a part of the game which the little boys play, 
chasing butterflies and catching them in a net. With such material as 
this the experimental scientist can do nothing. 

The situation would be very much the same if we should place a teacher 
who, according to our conception of the term, is scientifically 
prepared, in one of the public schools where the children are repressed 
in the spontaneous expression of their personality till they are almost 
like dead beings. In such a school the children, like butterflies 
mounted on pins, are fastened each to his place, the desk, spreading the 
useless wings of barren and meaningless knowledge which they have 

It is not enough, then, to prepare in our Masters the scientific spirit. 
We must also make ready the _school_ for their observation. The school 
must permit the _free_, _natural manif estations_ of the _child_ if in 
the school scientific pedagogy is to be born. This is the essential 

No one may affirm that such a principle already exists in pedagogy and 
in the school. It is true that some pedagogues, led by Rousseau, have 
given voice to impracticable principles and vague aspirations for the 
liberty of the child, but the true concept of liberty is practically 
unknown to educators. They often have the same concept of liberty which 
animates a people in the hour of rebellion from slavery, or perhaps, the 
conception of _social liberty_, which although it is a more elevated 
idea is still invariably restricted. "Social liberty" signifies always 
one more round of Jacob's ladder. In other words it signifies a partial 
liberation, the liberation of a country, of a class, or of thought. 

That concept of liberty which must inspire pedagogy is, instead, 
universal. The biological sciences of the nineteenth century have shown 
it to us when they have offered us the means for studying life. If, 
therefore, the old-time pedagogy foresaw or vaguely expressed the 
principle of studying the pupil before educating him, and of leaving him 
free in his spontaneous manifestations, such an intuition, indefinite 
and barely expressed, was made possible of practical attainment only 
after the contribution of the experimental sciences during the last 
century. This is not a case for sophistry or discussion, it is enough 
that we state our point. He who would say that the principle of liberty 
informs the pedagogy of to-day, would make us smile as at a child who, 
before the box of mounted butterflies, should insist that they were 
alive and could fly. The principle of slavery still pervades pedagogy, 
and, therefore, the same principle pervades the school. I need only give 
one proof — the stationary desks and chairs. Here we have, for example, a 
striking evidence of the errors of the early materialistic scientific 
pedagogy which, with mistaken zeal and energy, carried the barren stones 
of science to the rebuilding of the crumbling walls of the school. The 
schools were at first furnished with the long, narrow benches upon which 
the children were crowded together. Then came science and perfected the 
bench. In this work much attention was paid to the recent contributions 
of anthropology. The age of the child and the length of his limbs were 

considered in placing the seat at the right height. The distance between 
the seat and the desk was calculated with infinite care, in order that 
the child's back should not become deformed, and, finally, the seats 
were separated and the width so closely calculated that the child could 
barely seat himself upon it, while to stretch himself by making any 
lateral movements was impossible. This was done in order that he might 
be separated from his neighbour. These desks are constructed in such a 
way as to render the child visible in all his immobility. One of the 
ends sought through this separation is the prevention of immoral acts in 
the schoolroom. What shall we say of such prudence in a state of society 
where it would be considered scandalous to give voice to principles of 
sex morality in education, for fear we might thus contaminate innocence? 
And, yet, here we have science lending itself to this hypocrisy, 
fabricating machines! Not only this; obliging science goes farther 
still, perfecting the benches in such a way as to permit to the greatest 
possible extent the immobility of the child, or, if you wish, to repress 
every movement of the child. 

It is all so arranged that, when the child is well-fitted into his 
place, the desk and chair themselves force him to assume the position 
considered to be hygienically comfortable. The seat, the foot-rest, the 
desks are arranged in such a way that the child can never stand at his 
work. He is allotted only sufficient space for sitting in an erect 
position. It is in such ways that schoolroom desks and benches have 
advanced toward perfection. Every cult of the so-called scientific 
pedagogy has designed a model scientific desk. Not a few nations have 
become proud of their "national desk," — and in the struggle of 
competition these various machines have been patented. 

Undoubtedly there is much that is scientific underlying the construction 
of these benches. Anthropology has been drawn upon in the measuring of 
the body and the diagnosis of the age; physiology, in the study of 
muscular movements; psychology, in regard to perversion of instincts; 
and, above all, hygiene, in the effort to prevent curvature of the 
spine. These desks were indeed scientific, following in their 
construction the anthropological study of the child. We have here, as I 
have said, an example of the literal application of science to the 

I believe that before very long we shall all be struck with great 
surprise by this attitude. It will seem incomprehensible that the 
fundamental error of the desk should not have been revealed earlier 
through the attention given to the study of infant hygiene, 
anthropology, and sociology, and through the general progress of 
thought. The marvel is greater when we consider that during the past 
years there has been stirring in almost every nation a movement toward 
the protection of the child. 

I believe that it will not be many years before the public, scarcely 
believing the descriptions of these scientific benches, will come to 
touch with wondering bands the amazing seats that were constructed for 
the purpose of preventing among our school children curvature of the 

The development of these scientific benches means that the pupils were 
subjected to a rEgime, which, even though they were born strong and 
straight, made it possible for them to become humpbacked! The vertebral 
column, biologically the most primitive, fundamental, and oldest part of 
the skeleton, the most fixed portion, of our body, since the skeleton is 
the most solid portion of the organism — the vertebral column, which 
resisted and was strong through the desperate struggles of primitive man 
when he fought against the desert-lion, when he conquered the mammoth, 
when he quarried the solid rock and shaped the iron to his uses, bends, 
and cannot resist, under the yoke of the school. 

It is incomprehensible that so-called _science_ should have worked to 
perfect an instrument of slavery in the school without being enlightened 
by one ray from the movement of social liberation, growing and 

developing throughout the world. For the age of scientific benches was 
also the age of the redemption of the working classes from the yoke of 
unjust labor. 

The tendency toward social liberty is most evident, and manifests itself 
on every hand. The leaders of the people make it their slogan, the 
labouring masses repeat the cry, scientific and socialistic publications 
voice the same movement, our journals are full of it. The underfed 
workman does not ask for a tonic, but for better economic conditions 
which shall prevent malnutrition. The miner who, through the stooping 
position maintained during many hours of the day, is subject to inguinal 
rupture, does not ask for an abdominal support, but demands shorter 
hours and bettor working conditions, in order that he may be able to 
lead a healthy life like other men. 

And when, during this same social epoch, we find that the children in 
our schoolrooms are working amid unhygienic conditions, so poorly 
adapted to normal development that even the skeleton becomes deformed, 
our response to this terrible revelation is an orthopedic bench. It is 
much as if we offered to the miner the abdominal brace, or arsenic to 
the underfed workman. 

Some time ago a woman, believing me to be in sympathy with all 
scientific innovations concerning the school, showed me with evident 
satisfaction _a corset or brace for pupils_. She had invented this and 
felt that it would complete the work of the bench. 

Surgery has still other means for the treatment of spinal curvature. I 
might mention orthopedic instruments, braces, and a method of 
periodically suspending the child, by the head or shoulders, in such a 
fashion that the weight of the body stretches and thus straightens the 
vertebral column. In the school, the orthopedic instrument in the shape 
of the desk is in great favour to-day; someone proposes the brace — one 
step farther and it will be suggested that we give the scholars a 
systematic course in the suspension method! 

All this is the logical consequence of a material application of the 
methods of science to the decadent school. Evidently the rational method 
of combating spinal curvature in the pupils, is to change the form of 
their work — so that they shall no longer be obliged to remain for so 
many hours a day in a harmful position. It is a conquest of liberty 
which the school needs, not the mechanism of a bench. 

Even were the stationary seat helpful to the child's body, it would 
still be a dangerous and unhygienic feature of the environment, through 
the difficulty of cleaning the room perfectly when the furniture cannot 
be moved. The foot-rests, which cannot be removed, accumulate the dirt 
carried in daily from the street by the many little feet. To-day there 
is a general transformation in the matter of house furnishings. They are 
made lighter and simpler so that they may be easily moved, dusted, and 
even washed. But the school seems blind to the transformation of the 
social environment. 

It behooves us to think of what may happen to the _spirit_ of the child 
who is condemned to grow in conditions so artificial that his very bones 
may become deformed. When we speak of the redemption of the workingman, 
it is always understood that beneath the most apparent form of 
suffering, such as poverty of the blood, or ruptures, there exists that 
other wound from which the soul of the man who is subjected to any form 
of slavery must suffer. It is at this deeper wrong that we aim when we 
say that the workman must be redeemed through liberty. We know only too 
well that when a man's very blood has been consumed or his intestines 
wasted away through his work, his soul must have lain oppressed in 
darkness, rendered insensible, or, it may be, killed within him. The 
_moral_ degradation of the slave is, above all things, the weight that 
opposes the progress of humanity — humanity striving to rise and held 
back by this great burden. The cry of redemption speaks far more clearly 

for the souls of men than for their bodies. 

What shall we say then, when the question before us is that of 
_educating children_? 

We know only too well the sorry spectacle of the teacher who, in the 
ordinary schoolroom, must pour certain cut and dried facts into the 
heads of the scholars. In order to succeed in this barren task, she 
finds it necessary to discipline her pupils into immobility and to force 
their attention. Prizes and punishments are every-ready and efficient 
aids to the master who must force into a given attitude of mind and body 
those who are condemned to be his listeners. 

It is true that to-day it is deemed expedient to abolish official 
whippings and habitual blows, just as the awarding of prizes has become 
less ceremonious. These partial reforms are another prop approved of by 
science, and offered to the support of the decadent school. Such prizes 
and punishments are, if I may be allowed the expression, the _bench_ of 
the soul, the instrument of slavery for the spirit. Here, however, these 
are not applied to lessen deformities, but to provoke them. The prize 
and the punishment are incentives toward unnatural or forced effort, 
and, therefore we certainly cannot speak of the natural development of 
the child in connection with them. The jockey offers a piece of sugar to 
his horse before jumping into the saddle, the coachman beats his horse 
that he may respond to the signs given by the reins; and, yet, neither 
of these runs so superbly as the free horse of the plains. 

And here, in the case of education, shall man place the yoke upon man? 

True, we say that social man is natural man yoked to society. But if we 
give a comprehensive glance to the moral progress of society, we shall 
see that little by little, the yoke is being made easier, in other 
words, we shall see that nature, or life, moves gradually toward 
triumph. The yoke of the slave yields to that of the servant, and the 
yoke of the servant to that of the workman. 

All forms of slavery tend little by little to weaken and disappear, even 
the sexual slavery of woman. The history of civilisation is a history of 
conquest and of liberation. We should ask in what stage of civilisation 
we find ourselves and if, in truth, the good of prizes and of 
punishments be necessary to our advancement. If we have indeed gone 
beyond this point, then to apply such a form of education would be to 
draw the new generation back to a lower level, not to lead them into 
their true heritage of progress. 

Something very like this condition of the school exists in society, in 
the relation between the government and the great numbers of the men 
employed in its administrative departments. These clerks work day after 
day for the general national good, yet they do not feel or see the 
advantage of their work in any immediate reward. That is, they do not 
realise that the state carries on its great business through their daily 
tasks, and that the whole nation is benefited by their work. For them 
the immediate good is promotion, as passing to a higher class is for the 
child in school. The man who loses sight of the really big aim of his 
work is like a child who has been placed in a class below his real 
standing: like a slave, he is cheated of something which is his right. 
His dignity as a man is reduced to the limits of the dignity of a 
machine which must be oiled if it is to be kept going, because it does 
not have within itself the impulse of life. All those petty things such 
as the desire for decorations or medals, are but artificial stimuli, 
lightening for the moment the dark, barren path in which he treads. 

In the same way we give prizes to school children. And the fear of not 
achieving promotion, withholds the clerk from running away, and binds 
him to his monotonous work, even as the fear of not passing into the 
next class drives the pupil to his book. The reproof of the superior is 
in every way similar to the scolding of the teacher. The correction of 
badly executed clerical work is equivalent to the bad mark placed by the 

teacher upon the scholar's poor composition. The parallel is almost 

But if the administrative departments are not carried on in a way which 
would seem suitable to a nation's greatness; if corruption too easily 
finds a place; it is the result of having extinguished the true 
greatness of man in the mind of the employee, and of having restricted 
his vision to those petty, immediate facts, which he has come to look 
upon as prizes and punishments. The country stands, because the 
rectitude of the greater number of its employees is such that they 
resist the corruption of the prizes and punishments, and follow an 
irresistible current of honesty. Even as life in the social environment 
triumphs against every cause of poverty and death, and proceeds to new 
conquests, so the instinct of liberty conquers all obstacles, going from 
victory to victory. 

It is this personal and yet universal force of life, a force often 
latent within the soul, that sends the world forward. 

But he who accomplishes a truly human work, he who does something really 
great and victorious, is never spurred to his task by those trifling 
attractions called by the name of "prizes," nor by the fear of those 
petty ills which we call "punishments." If in a war a great army of 
giants should fight with no inspiration beyond the desire to win 
promotion, epaulets, or medals, or through fear of being shot, if these 
men were to oppose a handful of pygmies who were inflamed by love of 
country, the victory would go to the latter. When real heroism has died 
within an army, prizes and punishments cannot do more than finish the 
work of deterioration, bringing in corruption and cowardice. 

All human victories, all human progress, stand upon the inner force. 

Thus a young student may become a great doctor if he is spurred to his 
study by an interest which makes medicine his real vocation. But if he 
works in the hope of an inheritance, or of making a desirable marriage, 
or if indeed he is inspired by any material advantage, he will never 
become a true master or a great doctor, and the world will never make 
one step forward because of his work. He to whom such stimuli are 
necessary, had far better never become a physician. Everyone has a 
special tendency, a special vocation, modest, perhaps, but certainly 
useful. The system of prizes may turn an individual aside from this 
vocation, may make him choose a false road, for him a vain one, and 
forced to follow it, the natural activity of a human being may be 
warped, lessened, even annihilated. 

We repeat always that the world _progresses_ and that we must urge men 
forward to obtain progress. But progress comes from the _new things that 
are born_, and these, not being foreseen, are not rewarded with prizes: 
rather, they often carry the leader to martyrdom. God forbid that poems 
should ever be born of the desire to be crowned in the Capitol! Such a 
vision need only come into the heart of the poet and the muse will 
vanish. The poem must spring from the soul of the poet, when he thinks 
neither of himself nor of the prize. And if he does win the laurel, he 
will feel the vanity of such a prize. The true reward lies in the 
revelation through the poem of his own triumphant inner force. 

There does exist, however, an external prize for man; when, for example, 
the orator sees the faces of his listeners change with the emotions he 
has awakened, he experiences something so great that it can only be 
likened to the intense joy with which one discovers that he is loved. 
Our joy is to touch, and conquer souls, and this is the one prize which 
can bring us a true compensation. 

Sometimes there is given to us a moment when we fancy ourselves to be 
among the great ones of the world. These are moments of happiness given 
to man that he may continue his existence in peace. It may be through 
love attained or because of the gift of a son, through a glorious 

discovery or the publication of a book; in some such moment we feel that 
there exists no man who is above us. If, in such a moment, someone 
vested with authority comes forward to offer us a medal or a prize, he 
is the important destroyer of our real reward — "And who are you?" our 
vanished illusion shall cry, "Who are you that recalls me to the fact 
that I am not the first among men? Who stands so far above me that he 
may give me a prize?" The prize of such a man in such a moment can only 
be Divine. 

As for punishments, the soul of the normal man grows perfect through 
expanding, and punishment as commonly understood is always a form of 
_repression_. It may bring results with those inferior natures who grow 
in evil, but these are very few, and social progress is not affected by 
them. The penal code threatens us with punishment if we are dishonest 
within the limits indicated by the laws. But we are not honest through 
fear of the laws; if we do not rob, if we do not kill, it is because we 
love peace, because the natural trend of our lives leads us forward, 
leading us ever farther and more definitely away from the peril of low 
and evil acts. 

Without going into the ethical or metaphysical aspects of the question, 
we may safely affirm that the delinquent before he transgresses the law, 
has, _if he knows of the existence of a punishment_, felt the 
threatening weight of the criminal code upon him. He has defined it, or 
he has been lured into the crime, deluding himself with the idea that he 
would be able to avoid the punishment of the law. But there has occurred 
within his mind, a _struggle between the crime and the punishment_. 
Whether it be efficacious in hindering crime or not, this penal code is 
undoubtedly made for a very limited class of individuals; namely, 
criminals. The enormous majority of citizens are honest without any 
regard whatever to the threats of the law. 

The real punishment of normal man is the loss of the consciousness of 
that individual power and greatness which are the sources of his inner 
life. Such a punishment often falls upon men in the fullness of success. 
A man whom we would consider crowned by happiness and fortune may be 
suffering from this form of punishment. Far too often man does not see 
the real punishment which threatens him. 

And it is just here that education may help. 

To-day we hold the pupils in school, restricted by those instruments so 
degrading to body and spirit, the desk — and material prizes and 
punishments. Our aim in all this is to reduce them to the discipline of 
immobility and silence, — to lead them, — where? Far too often toward no 
definite end. 

Often the education of children consists in pouring into their 
intelligence the intellectual contents of school programmes. And often 
these programmes have been compiled in the official department of 
education, and their use is imposed by law upon the teacher and the 

Ah, before such dense and wilful disregard of the life which is growing 
within these children, we should hide our heads in shame and cover our 
guilty faces with our hands! 

Sergi says truly: "To-day an urgent need imposes itself upon society: 
the reconstruction of methods in education and instruction, and he who 
fights for this cause, fights for human regeneration." 


If we are to develop a system of scientific pedagogy, we must, then, 
proceed along lines very different from those which have been followed 
up to the present time. The transformation of the school must be 
contemporaneous with the preparation of the teacher. For if we make of 
the teacher an observer, familiar with the experimental methods, then we 
must make it possible for her to observe and to experiment in the 
school. The fundamental principle of scientific pedagogy must be, 
indeed, the _liberty of the pupil_; — such liberty as shall permit a 
development of individual, spontaneous manifestations of the child's 
nature. If a new and scientific pedagogy is to arise from the _study of 
the individuals such study must occupy itself with the observation of 
_free_ children. In vain should we await a practical renewing of 
pedagogical methods from methodical examinations of pupils made under 
the guidance offered to-day by pedagogy, anthropology, and experimental 

Every branch of experimental science has grown out of the application of 
a method peculiar to itself. Bacteriology owes its scientific content to 
the method of isolation and culture of microbes. Criminal, medical, and 
pedagogical anthropology owe their progress to the application of 
anthropological methods to individuals of various classes, such as 
criminals, the insane, the sick of the clinics, scholars. So 
experimental psychology needs as its starting point an exact definition 
of the technique to be used in making the experiment. 

To put it broadly, it is important to define _the method_, _the 
technique_, and from its application to _await_ the definite result, 
which must be gathered entirely from actual experience. One of the 
characteristics of experimental sciences is to proceed to the making of 
an experiment _without preconceptions of any sort_ as to the final 
result of the experiment itself. For example, should we wish to make 
scientific observations concerning the development of the head as 
related to varying degrees of intelligence, one of the conditions of 
such an experiment would be to ignore, in the taking of the 
measurements, which were the most intelligent and which the most 
backward among the scholars examined. And this because the preconceived 
idea that the most intelligent should have the head more fully developed 
will inevitably alter the results of the research. 

He who experiments must, while doing so, divest himself of every 
preconception. It is clear then that if we wish to make use of a method 
of experimental psychology, the first thing necessary is to renounce all 
former creeds and to proceed by means of the _method_ in the search for 

We must not start, for example, from any dogmatic ideas which we may 
happen to have held upon the subject of child psychology. Instead, we 
must proceed by a method which shall tend to make possible to the child 
complete liberty. This we must do if we are to draw from the observation 
of his spontaneous manifestations conclusions which shall lead to the 
establishment of a truly scientific child psychology. It may be that 
such a method holds for us great surprises, unexpected possibilities. 

Child psychology and pedagogy must establish their content by successive 
conquests arrived at through the method of experimentation. 

Our problem then, is this: to establish the _method peculiar_ to 
experimental pedagogy. It cannot be that used in other experimental 
sciences. It is true that scientific pedagogy is rounded out by hygiene, 
anthropology, and psychology, and adopts in part the technical method 
characteristic of all three, although limiting itself to a special study 
of the individual to be educated. But in pedagogy this study of the 
individual, though it must accompany the very different work of 
_education_, is a limited and secondary part of the science as a whole. 

This present study deals in part with the _method_ used in experimental 
pedagogy, and is the result of my experiences during two years in the 
"Children's Houses." I offer only a beginning of the method, which I 
have applied to children between the ages of three and six. But I 
believe that these tentative experiments, because of the surprising 
results which they have given, will be the means of inspiring a 
continuation of the work thus undertaken. 

Indeed, although our educational system, which experience has 
demonstrated to be excellent, is not yet entirely completed, it 
nevertheless constitutes a system well enough established to be 
practical in all institutions where young children are cared for, and in 
the first elementary classes. 

Perhaps I am not exact when I say that the present work springs from two 
years of experience. I do not believe that these later attempts of mine 
could alone have rendered possible all that I set forth in this book. 
The origin of the educational system in use in the "Children's Houses" 
is much more remote, and if this experience with normal children seems 
indeed rather brief, it should be remembered that it sprang from 
preceding pedagogical experiences with abnormal children, and that 
considered in this way, it represents a long and thoughtful endeavour. 

About fifteen years ago, being assistant doctor at the Psychiatric 
Clinic of the University of Rome, I had occasion to frequent the insane 
asylums to study the sick and to select subjects for the clinics. In 
this way I became interested in the idiot children who were at that time 
housed in the general insane asylums. In those days thyroid 
organotherapy was in full development, and this drew the attention of 
physicians to deficient children. I myself, having completed my regular 
hospital services, had already turned my attention to the study of 
children's diseases. 

It was thus that, being interested in the idiot children, I became 
conversant with the special method of education devised for these 
unhappy little ones by Edward SEguin, and was led to study thoroughly 
the idea, then beginning to be prevalent among the physicians, of the 
efficacy of "pedagogical treatment" for various morbid forms of disease 
such as deafness, paralysis, idiocy, rickets, etc. The fact that 
pedagogy must join with medicine in the treatment of disease was the 
practical outcome of the thought of the time. And because of this 
tendency the method of treating disease by gymnastics became widely 
popular. I, however, differed from my colleagues in that I felt that 
mental deficiency presented chiefly a pedagogical, rather than mainly a 
medical, problem. Much was said in the medical congresses of the 
medico-pedagogic method for the treatment and education of the feeble 
minded, and I expressed my differing opinion in an address on _Moral 
Education_ at the Pedagogical Congress of Turin in 1898. I believe that 
I touched a chord already vibrant, because the idea, making its way 
among the physicians and elementary teachers, spread in a flash as 
presenting a question of lively interest to the school. 

In fact I was called upon by my master, Guido Baccelli, the great 
Minister of Education, to deliver to the teachers of Rome a course of 
lectures on the education of feeble-minded children. This course soon 
developed into the State Orthophrenic School, which I directed for more 
than two years. 

In this school we had an all-day class of children composed of those who 
in the elementary schools were considered hopelessly deficient. Later 
on, through the help of a philanthropic organisation, there was founded 
a Medical Pedagogic Institute where, besides the children from the 
public schools, we brought together all of the idiot children from the 
insane asylums in Rome. 

I spent these two years with the help of my colleagues in preparing the 
teachers of Rome for a special method of observation and education of 
feeble-minded children. Not only did I train teachers, but what was much 

more important, after I had been in London and Paris for the purpose of 
studying in a practical way the education of deficients, I gave myself 
over completely to the actual teaching of the children, directing at the 
same time the work of the other teachers in our institute. 

I was more than an elementary teacher, for I was present, or directly 
taught the children, from eight in the morning to seven in the evening 
without interruption. These two years of practice are my first and 
indeed my true degree in pedagogy. From the very beginning of my work 
with deficient children (1898 to 1900) I felt that the methods which I 
used had in them nothing peculiarly limited to the instruction of 
idiots. I believed that they contained educational principles _more 
rational_ than those in use, so much more so, indeed, that through their 
means an inferior mentality would be able to grow and develop. This 
feeling, so deep as to be in the nature of an intuition, became my 
controlling idea after I had left the school for deficients, and, little 
by little, I became convinced that similar methods applied to normal 
children would develop or set free their personality in a marvellous and 
surprising way. 

It was then that I began a genuine and thorough study of what is known 
as remedial pedagogy, and, then, wishing to undertake the study of 
normal pedagogy and of the principles upon which it is based, I 
registered as a student of philosophy at the University. A great faith 
animated me, and although I did not know that I should ever be able to 
test the truth of my idea, I gave up every other occupation to deepen 
and broaden its conception. It was almost as if I prepared myself for an 
unknown mission. 

The methods for the education of deficients had their origin at the time 
of the French Revolution in the work of a physician whose achievements 
occupy a prominent place in the history of medicine, as he was the 
founder of that branch of medical science which to-day is known as 
Otiatria (diseases of the ear). 

He was the first to attempt a methodical education of the sense of 
hearing. He made these experiments in the institute for deaf mutes 
founded in Paris by Pereire, and actually succeeded in making the 
semi-deaf hear clearly. Later on, having in charge for eight years the 
idiot boy known as "the wild boy of Aveyron," he extended to the 
treatment of all the senses those educational methods which had already 
given such excellent results in the treatment of the sense of hearing. A 
student of Pinel, Itard, was the first educator to practise _the 
observation_ of the pupil in the way in which the sick are observed in 
the hospitals, especially those suffering from diseases of the nervous 

The pedagogic writings of Itard are most interesting and minute 
descriptions of educational efforts and experiences, and anyone reading 
them to-day must admit that they were practically the first attempts at 
experimental psychology. But the merit of having completed a genuine 
educational system for deficient children was due to Edward SEguin, 
first a teacher and then a physician. He took the experiences of Itard 
as his starting point, applying these methods, modifying and completing 
them during a period of ten years' experience with children taken from 
the insane asylums and placed in, a little school in Rue Pigalle in 
Paris. This method was described for the first time in a volume of more 
than six hundred pages, published in Paris in 1846, with the title: 
"Traitement Moral, HygiEne et Education des Idiots." Later SEguin 
emigrated to the United States of America where he founded many 
institutions for deficients, and where, after another twenty years of 
experience, he published the second edition of his method, under a very 
different title: "Idiocy and its Treatment by the Physiological Method." 
This volume was published in New York in 1886, and in it SEguin had 
carefully defined his method of education, calling it the _physiological 
method_. He no longer referred in the title to a method for the 
"education of idiots" as if the method were special to them, but spoke 
now of idiocy treated by a physiological method. If we consider that 

pedagogy always had psychology as its base, and that Wundt defines a 
"physiological psychology," the coincidence of these ideas must strike 
us, and lead us to suspect in the physiological method some connection 
with physiological psychology. 

While I was assistant at the Psychiatric Clinic, I had read Edward 
SEguin's French book, with great interest. But the English book which 
was published in New York twenty years later, although it was quoted in 
the works about special education by Bourneville, was not to be found in 
any library. I made a vain quest for it, going from house to house of 
nearly all the English physicians, who were known to be specially 
interested in deficient children, or who were superintendents of special 
schools. The fact that this book was unknown in England, although it had 
been published in the English language, made me think that the SEguin 
system had never been understood. In fact, although SEguin was 
constantly quoted in all the publications dealing with institutions for 
deficients, the educational _applications_ described, were quite 
different from the applications of SEguin's system. 

Almost everywhere the methods applied to deficients are more or less the 
same as those in use for normal children. In Germany, especially, a 
friend who had gone there in order to help me in my researches, noticed 
that although special materials existed here and there in the 
pedagogical museums of the schools for deficients, these materials were 
rarely used. Indeed, the German educators hold the principle that it is 
well to adapt to the teaching of backward children, the same method used 
for normal ones; but these methods are much more objective in Germany 
than with us. 

At the Bicltre, where I spent some time, I saw that it was the didactic 
apparatus of SEguin far more than his _method_ which was being used, 
although, the French text was in the hands of the educators. The 
teaching there was purely mechanical, each teacher following the rules 
according to the letter. I found, however, wherever I went, in London as 
well as in Paris, a desire for fresh counsel and for new experiences, 
since far too often SEguin's claim that with his methods the education 
of idiots was actually possible, had proved only a delusion. 

After this study of the methods in use throughout Europe I concluded my 
experiments upon the deficients of Rome, and taught them throughout two 
years. I followed SEguin's book, and also derived much help from the 
remarkable experiments of Itard. 

Guided by the work of these two men, I had manufactured a great variety 
of didactic material. These materials, which I have never seen complete 
in any institution, became in the hands of those who knew how to apply 
them, a most remarkable and efficient means, but unless rightly 
presented, they failed to attract the attention of the deficients. 

I felt that I understood the discouragement of those working with 
feeble-minded children, and could see why they had, in so many cases, 
abandoned the method. The prejudice that the educator must place himself 
on a level with the one to be educated, sinks the teacher of deficients 
into a species of apathy. He accepts the fact that he is educating an 
inferior personality, and for that very reason he does not succeed. Even 
so those who teach little children too often have the idea that they are 
educating babies and seek to place themselves on the child's level by 
approaching him with games, and often with foolish stories. Instead of 
all this, we must know how to call to the _man_ which lies dormant 
within the soul of the child. I felt this, intuitively, and believed 
that not the didactic material, but my voice which called to them, 
_awakened_ the children, and encouraged them to use the didactic 
material, and through it, to educate themselves. I was guided in my work 
by the deep respect which I felt for their misfortune, and by the love 
which these unhappy children know how to awaken in those who are near 

SEguin, too, expressed himself in the same way on this subject. Reading 

his patient attempts, I understand clearly that the first didactic 
material used by him was _spiritual_. Indeed, at the close of the French 
volume, the author, giving a rEsumE of his work, concludes by saying 
rather sadly, that all he has established will be lost or useless, if 
the _teachers_ are not prepared for their work. He holds rather original 
views concerning the preparation of teachers of deficients. He would 
have them good to look upon, pleasant-voiced, careful in every detail of 
their personal appearance, doing everything possible to make themselves 
attractive. They must, he says, render themselves attractive in voice 
and manner, since it is their task to awaken souls which are frail and 
weary, and to lead them forth to lay hold upon the beauty and strength 
of life. 

This belief that we must act upon the spirit, served as a sort of 
_secret key_, opening to me the long series of didactic experiments so 
wonderfully analysed by Edward SEguin, — experiments which, properly 
understood, are really most efficacious in the education of idiots. I 
myself obtained most surprising results through their application, but I 
must confess that, while my efforts showed themselves in the 
intellectual progress of my pupils, a peculiar form of exhaustion 
prostrated me. It was as if I gave to them some vital force from within 
me. Those things which we call encouragement, comfort, love, respect, 
are drawn from the soul of man, and the more freely we give of them, the 
more do we renew and reinvigorate the life about us. 

Without such inspiration the most perfect _external stimulus_ may pass 
unobserved. Thus the blind Saul, before the glory of the sun, exclaimed, 
"This?— It is the dense fog!" 

Thus prepared, I was able to proceed to new experiments on my own 
account. This is not the place for a report of these experiments, and I 
will only note that at this time I attempted an original method for the 
teaching of reading and writing, a part of the education of the child 
which was most imperfectly treated in the works of both Itard and 

I succeeded in teaching a number of the idiots from the asylums both to 
read and to write so well that I was able to present them at a public 
school for an examination together with normal children. And they passed 
the examination successfully. 

These results seemed almost miraculous to those who saw them. To me, 
however, the boys from the asylums had been able to compete with the 
normal children only because they had been taught in a different way. 
They had been helped in their psychic development, and the normal 
children had, instead, been suffocated, held back. I found myself 
thinking that if, some day, the special education which had developed 
these idiot children in such a marvellous fashion, could be applied to 
the development of normal children, the "miracle" of which my friends 
talked would no longer be possible. The abyss between the inferior 
mentality of the idiot and that of the normal brain can never be bridged 
if the normal child has reached his full development. 

While everyone was admiring the progress of my idiots, I was searching 
for the reasons which could keep the happy healthy children of the 
common schools on so low a plane that they could be equalled in tests of 
intelligence by my unfortunate pupils! 

One day, a directress in the Institute for Deficients, asked me to read 
one of the prophecies of Ezekiel which had made a profound impression 
upon her, as it seemed to prophesy the education of deficients. 

"The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of 
the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of 

"And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very 
many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. 

"And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, 
Lord God, thou knowest. 

"Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, 
ye dry hones, hear the word of the Lord. 

"Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath 
to enter into you, and ye shall live: 

"And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and 
cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye 
shall know that I am the Lord. 

"So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a 
noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his 

"And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and 
the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. 

"Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and 
say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, 
breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. 

"So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and 
they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. 

"Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of 
Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we 
are cut off for our parts." 

In fact, the words — "I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall 
live," seem to me to refer to the direct individual work of the master 
who encourages, calls to, and helps his pupil, preparing him for 
education. And the remainder — "I will lay sinews upon you, and will 
bring up flesh upon you," recalled the fundamental phrase which sums up 
SEguin's whole method, — "to lead the child, as it were, by the hand, 
from the education of the muscular system, to that of the nervous 
system, and of the senses." It was thus that SEguin taught the idiots 
how to walk, how to maintain their equilibrium in the most difficult 
movements of the body — such as going up stairs, jumping, etc., and 
finally, to feel, beginning the education of the muscular sensations by 
touching, and reading the difference of temperature, and ending with the 
education of the particular senses. 

But if the training goes no further than this, we have only led these 
children to adapt themselves to a low order of life (almost a vegetable 
existence). "Call to the Spirit," says the prophecy, and the spirit 
shall enter into them, and they shall have life. SEguin, indeed, led 
the idiot from the vegetative to the intellectual life, "from the 
education, of the senses to general notions, from general notions to 
abstract thought, from abstract thought to morality." But when this 
wonderful work is accomplished, and by means of a minute physiological 
analysis and of a gradual progression in method, the idiot has become a 
man, he is still an inferior in the midst of his fellow men, an 
individual who will never be able fully to adapt himself to the social 
environment: "Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off 
for our parts." 

This gives us another reason why the tedious method of SEguin was so 
often abandoned; the tremendous difficulty of the means, did not justify 
the end. Everyone felt this, and many said, "There is still so much to 
be done for normal children!" 

Having through actual experience justified my faith in SEguin's method, 
I withdrew from active work among deficients, and began a more thorough 

study of the works of Itard and SEguin. I felt the need of meditation. I 
did a thing which I had not done before, and which perhaps few students 
have been willing to do, — I translated into Italian and copied out with 
my own hand, the writings of these men, from beginning to end, making 
for myself books as the old Benedictines used to do before the diffusion 
of printing. 

I chose to do this by hand, in order that I might have time to weigh the 
sense of each word, and to read, in truth, the _spirit_ of the author. I 
had just finished copying the 600 pages of SEguin's French volume when I 
received from New York a copy of the English book published in 1866. 
This old volume had been found among the books discarded from the 
private library of a New York physician. I translated it with the help 
of an English friend. This volume did not add much in the way of new 
pedagogical experiments, but dealt with the philosophy of the 
experiences described in the first volume. The man who had studied 
abnormal children for thirty years expressed the idea that the 
physiological method, which has as its base the individual study of the 
pupil and which forms its educative methods upon the analysis of 
physiological and psychological phenomena, must come also to be applied 
to normal children. This step, he believed, would show the way to a 
complete human regeneration. 

The voice of SEguin seemed to be like the voice of the forerunner crying 
in the wilderness, and my thoughts were filled with the immensity and 
importance of a work which should be able to reform the school and 

At this time I was registered at the University as a student of 
philosophy, and followed the courses in experimental psychology, which 
had only recently been established in Italian universities, namely, at 
Turin, Rome and Naples. At the same time I made researches in Pedagogic 
Anthropology in the elementary schools, studying in this way the methods 
in organisation used for the education of normal children. This work led 
to the teaching of Pedagogic Anthropology in the University of Rome. 

I had long wished to experiment with the methods for deficients in a 
first elementary class of normal children, but I had never thought of 
making use of the homes or institutions where very young children were 
cared for. It was pure chance that brought this new idea to my mind. 

It was near the end of the year 1906, and I had just returned from 
Milan, where I had been one of a committee at the International 
Exhibition for the assignment of prizes in the subjects of Scientific 
Pedagogy and Experimental Psychology. A great opportunity came to me, 
for I was invited by Edoardo Talamo, the Director General of the Roman 
Association for Good Building, to undertake the organisation of infant 
schools in its model tenements. It was Signor Talamo 's happy idea to 
gather together in a large room all the little ones between the ages of 
three and seven belonging to the families living in the tenement. The 
play and work of these children was to be carried on under the guidance 
of a teacher who should have her own apartment in the tenement house. It 
was intended that every house should have its school, and as the 
Association for Good Building already owned more than 400 tenements in 
Rome the work seemed to offer tremendous possibilities of development. 
The first school was to be established in January, 1907, in a large 
tenement house in the Quarter of San Lorenzo. In the same Quarter the 
Association already owned fifty-eight buildings, and according to Signor 
Talamo 's plans we should soon be able to open sixteen of these "schools 
within the house." 

This new kind of school was christened by Signora Olga Lodi, a mutual 
friend of Signor Talamo and myself, under the fortunate title of _Casa 
dei Bambini_ or "The Children's House." Under this name the first of our 
schools was opened on the sixth of January, 1907, at 58 Via dei Masi. It 
was confided to the care of Candida Nuccitelli and was under my guidance 
and direction. 

From the very first I perceived, in all its immensity, the social and 
pedagogical importance of such institutions, and while at that time my 
visions of a triumphant future seemed exaggerated, to-day many are 
beginning to understand that what I saw before was indeed the truth. 

On the seventh of April of the same year, 1907, a second "Children's 
House" was opened in the Quarter of San Lorenzo; and on the eighteenth 
of October, 1908, another was inaugurated by the Humanitarian Society in 
Milan in the Quarter inhabited by workingmen. The workshops of this same 
society undertook the manufacture of the materials which we used. 

On the fourth of November following, a third "Children's House" was 
opened in Rome, this time not in the people's Quarter, but in a modern 
building for the middle classes, situated in Via Famagosta, in that part 
of the city known as the Prati di Castello; and in January, 1909, 
Italian Switzerland began to transform its orphan asylums and children's 
homes in which the Froebel system had been used, into "Children's 
Houses" adopting our methods and materials. 

The "Children's House" has a twofold importance: the social importance 
which it assumes through its peculiarity of being a school within the 
house, and its purely pedagogic importance gained through its methods 
for the education of very young children, of which I now made a trial. 

As I have said, Signor Talamo's invitation gave me a wonderful 
opportunity for applying the methods used with deficients to normal 
children, not of the elementary school age, but of the age usual in 
infant asylums. 

If a parallel between the deficient and the normal child is possible, 
this will be during the period of early infancy _when the child who has 
not the force to develop_ and _he who is not yet developed_ are in some 
ways alike. 

The very young child has not yet acquired a secure co-ordination of 
muscular movements, and, therefore, walks imperfectly, and is not able 
to perform the ordinary acts of life, such as fastening and unfastening 
its garments. The sense organs, such as the power of accommodation of 
the eye, are not yet completely developed; the language is primordial 
and shows those defects common to the speech of the very young child. 
The difficulty of fixing the attention, the general instability, etc., 
are characteristics which the normal infant and the deficient child have 
in common. Preyer, also, in his psychological study of children has 
turned aside to illustrate the parallel between pathological linguistic 
defects, and those of normal children in the process of developing. 

Methods which made growth possible to the mental personality of the 
idiot ought, therefore, to _aid the development of young children_, and 
should be so adapted as to constitute a hygienic education of the entire 
personality of a normal human being. Many defects which become 
permanent, such as speech defects, the child acquires through being 
neglected during the most important period of his age, the period 
between three and six, at which time he forms and establishes his 
principal functions. 

Here lies the significance of my pedagogical experiment in the 
"Children's Houses." It represents the results of a series of trials 
made by me, in the education of young children, with methods already 
used with deficients. My work has not been in any way an application, 
pure and simple, of the methods of SEguin to young children, as anyone 
who will consult the works of the author will readily see. But it is 
none the less true that, underlying these two years of trial, there is a 
basis of experiment which goes back to the days of the French 
Revolution, and which represents the earnest work of the lives of Itard 
and SEguin. 

As for me, thirty years after the publication of SEguin 's second book, I 

took up again the ideas and, I may even say, the work of this great 
man, with the same freshness of spirit with which he received the 
inheritance of the work and ideas of his master Itard. For _ten years_ I 
not only made practical experiments according to their methods, but 
through reverent meditation absorbed the works of these noble and 
consecrated men, who have left to humanity most vital proof of their 
obscure heroism. 

Thus my ten years of work may in a sense be considered as a summing up 
of the forty years of work done by Itard and SEguin. Viewed in this 
light, fifty years of active work preceded and prepared for this 
apparently brief trial of only two years, and I feel that I am not wrong 
in saying that these experiments represent the successive work of three 
physicians, who from Itard to me show in a greater or less degree the 
first steps along the path of psychiatry. 

As definite factors in the civilisation of the people, the "Children's 
Houses" deserve a separate volume. They have, in fact, solved so many of 
the social and pedagogic problems in ways which have seemed to be 
Utopian, that they are a part of that modern transformation of the home 
which must most surely be realised before many years have passed. In 
this way they touch directly the most important side of the social 
question — that which deals with the intimate or home life of the people. 

It is enough here to reproduce the inaugural discourse delivered by me 
on the occasion of the opening of the second "Children's House" in Rome, 
and to present the rules and regulations [4] which I arranged in 
accordance with the wishes of Signor Talamo. 

[4] See page 70. 

It will be noticed that the club to which I refer, and the dispensary 
which is also an out-patients' institution for medical and surgical 
treatment (all such institutions being free to the inhabitants) have 
already been established. In the modern tenement — Casa Moderna in the 
Prati di Castello, opened November 4, 1908, through the philanthropy of 
Signor Talamo — they are also planning to annex a "communal kitchen." 



It may be that the life lived by the very poor is a thing which some of 
you here to-day have never actually looked upon in all its degradation. 
You may have only felt the misery of deep human poverty through the 
medium of some great book, or some gifted actor may have made your soul 
vibrato with its horror. 

Let us suppose that in some such moment a voice should cry to you, "Go 
look upon these homes of misery and blackest poverty. For there have 
sprung up amid the terror and the suffering, cases of happiness, of 
cleanliness, of peace. The poor are to have an ideal house which shall 
be their own. In Quarters where poverty and vice ruled, a work of moral 
redemption is going on. The soul of the people is being set free from 
the torpor of vice, from the shadows of ignorance. The little children 
too have a 'House' of their own. The new generation goes forward to meet 
the new era, the time when misery shall no longer be deplored but 
destroyed. They go to meet the time when the dark dens of vice and 
wretchedness shall have become things of the past, and when no trace of 
them shall be found among the living." What a change of emotions we 
should experience! and how we should hasten here, as the wise men 
guided by a dream and a star hastened to Bethlehem! 

I have spoken thus in order that you may understand the great 
significance, the real beauty, of this humble room, which seems like a 
bit of the house itself set apart by a mother's hand for the use and 
happiness of the children of the Quarter. This is the second "Children's 
House" [5] which has been established within the ill-favoured Quarter of 
San Lorenzo. 

[5] Dr. Montessori no longer directs the work in the Casa dei 
Bambini in the Quarter of San Lorenzo. 

The Quarter of San Lorenzo is celebrated, for every newspaper in the 
city is filled with almost daily accounts of its wretched happenings. 
Yet there are many who are not familiar with the origin of this portion 
of our city. 

It was never intended to build up here a tenement district for the 
people. And indeed San Lorenzo is not the _People's_ Quarter, it is the 
Quarter of the _poor_. It is the Quarter where lives the underpaid, 
often unemployed workingman, a common type in a city which has no 
factory industries. It is the home of him who undergoes the period of 
surveillance to which he is condemned after his prison sentence is 
ended. They are all here, mingled, huddled together. 

The district of San Lorenzo sprang into being between 1884 and 1888 at 
the time of the great building fever. No standards either social or 
hygienic guided these new constructions. The aim in building was simply 
to cover with walls square foot after square foot of ground. The more 
space covered, the greater the gain of the interested Banks and 
Companies. All this with a complete disregard of the disastrous future 
which they were preparing. It was natural that no one should concern 
himself with the stability of the building he was creating, since in no 
case would the property remain in the possession of him who built it. 

When the storm burst, in the shape of the inevitable building panic of 
1888 to 1890, these unfortunate houses remained for a long time 
untenanted. Then, little by little, the need of dwelling-places began to 
make itself felt, and these great houses began to fill. Now, those 
speculators who had been so unfortunate as to remain possessors of these 
buildings could not, and did not wish to, add fresh capital to that 
already lost, so the houses constructed in the first place in utter 
disregard of all laws of hygiene, and rendered still worse by having 
been used as temporary habitations, came to be occupied by the poorest 
class in the city. 

The apartments not being prepared for the working class, were too large, 
consisting of five, six, or seven rooms. These were rented at a price 
which, while exceedingly low in relation to the size, was yet too high 
for any one family of very poor people. This led to the evil of 
subletting. The tenant who has taken a six room apartment at eight 
dollars a month sublets rooms at one dollar and a half or two dollars a 
month to those who can pay so much, and a corner of a room, or a 
corridor, to a poorer tenant, thus making an income of fifteen dollars 
or more, over and above the cost of his own rent. 

This means that the problem of existence is in great part solved for 
him, and that in every case he adds to his income through usury. The one 
who holds the lease traffics in the misery of his fellow tenants, 
lending small sums at a rate which generally corresponds to twenty cents 
a week for the loan of two dollars, equivalent to an annual rate of 500 
per cent. 

Thus we have in the evil of subletting the most cruel form of usury: 
that which only the poor know how to practise upon the poor. 

To this we must add the evils of crowded living, promiscuousness, 
immorality, crime. Every little while the newspapers uncover for us one 

of these _intF_rieurs_: a large family, growing boys and girls, sleep in 
one room; while one corner of the room is occupied by an outsider, a 
woman who receives the nightly visits of men. This is seen by the girls 
and the boys; evil passions are kindled that lead to the crime and 
bloodshed which unveil for a brief instant before our eyes, in some 
lurid paragraph, this little detail of the mass of misery. 

Whoever enters, for the first time, one of these apartments is 
astonished and horrified. For this spectacle of genuine misery is not at 
all like the garish scene he has imagined. We enter here a world of 
shadows, and that which strikes us first is the darkness which, even 
though it be midday, makes it impossible to distinguish any of the 
details of the room. 

When the eye has grown accustomed to the gloom, we perceive, within, the 
outlines of a bed upon which lies huddled a figure — someone ill and 
suffering. If we have come to bring money from some society for mutual 
aid, a candle must be lighted before the sum can be counted and the 
receipt signed. Oh, when we talk of social problems, how often we speak 
vaguely, drawing upon our fancy for details instead of preparing 
ourselves to judge intelligently through a personal investigation of 
facts and conditions. 

We discuss earnestly the question of home study for school children, 
when for many of them home means a straw pallet thrown down in the 
corner of some dark hovel. We wish to establish circulating libraries 
that the poor may read at home. We plan to send among these people books 
which shall form their domestic literature — books through whose 
influence they shall come to higher standards of living. We hope through 
the printed page to educate these poor people in matters of hygiene, of 
morality, of culture, and in this we show ourselves profoundly ignorant 
of their most crying needs. For many of them have no light by which to 
read ! 

There lies before the social crusader of the present day a problem more 
profound than that of the intellectual elevation of the poor; the 
problem, indeed, of _life_. 

In speaking of the children born in these places, even the conventional 
expressions must be changed, for they do not "first see the light of 
day"; they come into a world of gloom. They grow among the poisonous 
shadows which envelope over-crowded humanity. These children cannot be 
other than filthy in body, since the water supply in an apartment 
originally intended to be occupied by three or four persons, when 
distributed among twenty or thirty is scarcely enough for drinking 
purposes ! 

We Italians have elevated our word "casa" to the almost sacred 
significance of the English word "home," the enclosed temple of domestic 
affection, accessible only to dear ones. 

Far removed from this conception is the condition of the many who have 
no "casa," but only ghastly walls within which the most intimate acts of 
life are exposed upon the pillory. Here, there can be no privacy, no 
modesty, no gentleness; here, there is often not even light, nor air, 
nor water! It seems a cruel mockery to introduce here our idea of the 
home as essential to the education of the masses, and as furnishing, 
along with the family, the only solid basis for the social structure. In 
doing this we would be not practical reformers but visionary poets. 

Conditions such as I have described make it more decorous, more 
hygienic, for these people to take refuge in the street and to let their 
children live there. But how often these streets are the scene of 
bloodshed, of quarrel, of sights so vile as to be almost inconceivable. 
The papers tell us of women pursued and killed by drunken husbands! Of 
young girls with the fear of worse than death, stoned by low men. Again, 
we see untenable things — a wretched woman thrown, by the drunken men 
who have preyed upon her, forth into the gutter. There, when day has 

come, the children of the neighbourhood crowd about her like scavengers 
about their dead prey, shouting and laughing at the sight of this wreck 
of womanhood, kicking her bruised and filthy body as it lies in the mud 
of the gutter! 

Such spectacles of extreme brutality are possible here at the very gate 
of a cosmopolitan city, the mother of civilisation and queen of the fine 
arts, because of a new fact which was unknown to past centuries, namely, 
_the isolation of the masses of the poor_. 

In the Middle Ages, leprosy was isolated: the Catholics isolated the 
Hebrews in the Ghetto; but poverty was never considered a peril and an 
infamy so great that it must be isolated. The homes of the poor were 
scattered among those of the rich and the contrast between these was a 
commonplace in literature up to our own times. Indeed, when I was a 
child in school, teachers, for the purpose of moral education, 
frequently resorted to the illustration of the kind princess who sends 
help to the poor cottage next door, or of the good children from the 
great house who carry food to the sick woman in the neighbouring attic. 

To-day all this would be as unreal and artificial as a fairy tale. The 
poor may no longer learn from their more fortunate neighbours lessons in 
courtesy and good breeding, they no longer have the hope of help from 
them in cases of extreme need. We have herded them together far from us, 
without the walls, leaving them to learn of each other, in the abandon 
of desperation, the cruel lessons of brutality and vice. Anyone in whom 
the social conscience is awake must see that we have thus created 
infected regions that threaten with deadly peril the city which, wishing 
to make all beautiful and shining according to an Esthetic and 
aristocratic ideal, has thrust without its walls whatever is ugly or 

When I passed for the first time through these streets, it was as if I 
found myself in a city upon which some great disaster had fallen. It 
seemed to me that the shadow of some recent struggle still oppressed the 
unhappy people who, with something very like terror in their pale faces, 
passed me in these silent streets. The very silence seemed to signify 
the life of a community interrupted, broken. Not a carriage, not even 
the cheerful voice of the ever-present street vender, nor the sound of 
the hand-organ playing in the hope of a few pennies, not even these 
things, so characteristic of poor quarters, enter here to lighten this 
sad and heavy silence. 

Observing these streets with their deep holes, the doorsteps broken and 
tumbling, we might almost suppose that this disaster had been in the 
nature of a great inundation which had carried the very earth away; but 
looking about us at the houses stripped of all decorations, the walls 
broken and scarred, we are inclined to think that it was perhaps an 
earthquake which has afflicted this quarter. Then, looking still more 
closely, we see that in all this thickly settled neighbourhood there is 
not a shop to be found. So poor is the community that it has not been 
possible to establish even one of those popular bazars where necessary 
articles are sold at so low a price as to put them within the reach of 
anyone. The only shops of any sort are the low wine shops which open 
their evil-smelling doors to the passer-by. As we look upon all this, it 
is borne upon us that the disaster which has placed its weight of 
suffering upon these people is not a convulsion of nature, but 
poverty — poverty with its inseparable companion, vice. 

This unhappy and dangerous state of things, to which our attention is 
called at intervals by newspaper accounts of violent and immoral crime, 
stirs the hearts and consciences of many who come to undertake among 
these people some work of generous benevolence. One might almost say 
that every form of misery inspires a special remedy and that all have 
been tried here, from the attempt to introduce hygienic principles into 
each house, to the establishment of crlches, "Children's Houses," and 

But what indeed is benevolence? Little more than an expression of 
sorrow; it is pity translated into action. The benefits of such a form 
of charity cannot be great, and through the absence of any continued 
income and the lack of organisation it is restricted to a small number 
of persons. The great and widespread peril of evil demands, on the other 
hand, a broad and comprehensive work directed toward the redemption of 
the entire community. Only such an organisation, as, working for the 
good of others, shall itself grow and prosper through the general 
prosperity which it has made possible, can make a place for itself in 
this quarter and accomplish a permanent good work. 

It is to meet this dire necessity that the great and kindly work of the 
Roman Association of Good Building has been undertaken. The advanced and 
highly modern way in which this work is being carried on is due to 
Edoardo Talamo, Director General of the Association. His plans, so 
original, so comprehensive, yet so practical, are without counterpart in 
Italy or elsewhere. 

This Association was incorporated three years ago in Rome, its plan 
being to acquire city tenements, remodel them, put them into a 
productive condition, and administer them as a good father of a family 

The first property acquired comprised a large portion of the Quarter of 
San Lorenzo, where to-day the Association possesses fifty-eight houses, 
occupying a ground space of about 30,000 square metres, and containing, 
independent of the ground floor, 1,600 small apartments. Thousands of 
people will in this way receive the beneficent influence of the 
protective reforms of the Good Building Association. Following its 
beneficent programme, the Association set about transforming these old 
houses, according to the most modern standards, paying as much attention 
to questions related to hygiene and morals as to those relating to 
buildings. The constructional changes would make the property of real 
and lasting value, while the hygienic and moral transformation, would, 
through the improved condition of the inmates, make the rent from these 
apartments a more definite asset. 

The Association of Good Building therefore decided upon a programme 
which would permit of a gradual attainment of their ideal. It is 
necessary to proceed slowly because it is not easy to empty a tenement 
house at a time when houses are scarce, and the humanitarian principles 
which govern the entire movement make it impossible to proceed more 
rapidly in this work of regeneration. So it is, that the Association has 
up to the present time transformed only three houses in the Quarter of 
San Lorenzo. The plan followed in this transformation is as follows: 

A: To demolish in every building all portions of the structure not 
originally constructed with the idea of making homes, but, from a purely 
commercial standpoint, of making the rental roll larger. In other words, 
the new management tore down those parts of the building which 
encumbered the central court, thus doing away with dark, ill-ventilated 
apartments, and giving air and light to the remaining portion of the 
tenement. Broad airy courts take the place of the inadequate air and 
light shafts, rendering the remaining apartments more valuable and 
infinitely more desirable. 

B: To increase the number of stairways, and to divide the room space in 
a more practical way. The large six or seven room suites are reduced to 
small apartments of one, two, or three rooms, and a kitchen. 

The importance of such changes may be recognised from the economic point 
of view of the proprietor as well as from the standpoint of the moral 
and material welfare of the tenant. Increasing the number of stairways 
diminishes that abuse of walls and stairs inevitable where so many 
persons must pass up and down. The tenants more readily learn to respect 
the building and acquire habits of cleanliness and order. Not only this, 
but in reducing the chances of contact among the inhabitants of the 
house, especially late at night, a great advance has been made in the 

matter of moral hygiene. 

The division of the house into small apartments has done much toward 
this moral regeneration. Each family is thus set apart, _homes_ are made 
possible, while the menacing evil of subletting together with all its 
disastrous consequences of overcrowding and immorality is checked in the 
most radical way. 

On one side this arrangement lessens the burden of the individual lease 
holders, and on the other increases the income of the proprietor, who 
now receives those earnings which were the unlawful gain of the system 
of subletting. When the proprietor who originally rented an apartment of 
six rooms for a monthly rental of eight dollars, makes such an apartment 
over into three small, sunny, and airy suites consisting of one room and 
a kitchen, it is evident that he increases his income. 

The moral importance of this reform as it stands to-day is tremendous, 
for it has done away with those evil influences and low opportunities 
which arise from crowding and from promiscuous contact, and has brought 
to life among these people, for the first time, the gentle sentiment of 
feeling themselves free within their own homes, in the intimacy of the 

But the project of the Association goes beyond even this. The house 
which it offers to its tenants is not only sunny and airy, but in 
perfect order and repair, almost shining, and as if perfumed with purity 
and freshness. These good things, however, carry with them a 
responsibility which the tenant must assume if he wishes to enjoy them. 
He must pay an actual tax of _care_ and _good will_. The tenant who 
receives a clean house must keep it so, must respect the walls from the 
big general entrance to the interior of his own little apartment. He who 
keeps his house in good condition receives the recognition and 
consideration due such a tenant. Thus all the tenants unite in an 
ennobling warfare for practical hygiene, an end made possible by the 
simple task of _conserving_ the already perfect conditions. 

Here indeed is something new! So far only our great national buildings 
have had a continued jnaintenance fund_. Here, in these houses offered 
to the people, the maintenance is confided to a hundred or so 
workingmen, that is, to all the occupants of the building. This care is 
almost perfect. The people keep the house in perfect condition, without 
a single spot. The building in which we find ourselves to-day has been 
for two years under the sole protection of the tenants, and the work of 
maintenance has been left entirely to them. Yet few of our houses can 
compare in cleanliness and freshness with this home of the poor. 

The experiment has been tried and the result is remarkable. The people 
acquire together with the lore of home-making, that of cleanliness. They 
come, moreover, to wish to beautify their homes. The Association helps 
this by placing growing plants and trees in the courts and about the 

Out of this honest rivalry in matters so productive of good, grows a 
species of pride new to this quarter; this is the pride which the entire 
body of tenants takes in having the best-cared-for building and in 
having risen to a higher and more civilised plane of living. They not 
only live in a house, but they _know how to live_, they _know how to 
respect_ the house in which they live. 

This first impulse has led to other reforms. From the clean home will 
come personal cleanliness. Dirty furniture cannot be tolerated in a 
clean house, and those persons living in a permanently clean house will 
come to desire personal cleanliness. 

One of the most important hygienic reforms of the Association is that 
of _the baths_. Each remodeled tenement has a place set apart for 
bathrooms, furnished with tubs or shower, and having hot and cold water. 
All the tenants in regular turn may use these baths, as, for example, in 

various tenements the occupants go according to turn, to wash their 
clothes in the fountain in the court. This is a great convenience which 
invites the people to be clean. These hot and cold baths _within the 
house_ are a great improvement upon the general public baths. In this 
way we make possible to these people, at one and the same time, health 
and refinement, opening not only to the sun, but to progress, those dark 
habitations once the _vile caves_ of misery. 

But in striving to realise its ideal of a semi-gratuitous maintenance of 
its buildings, the Association met with a difficulty in regard to those 
children under school age, who must often be left alone during the 
entire day while their parents went out to work. These little ones, not 
being able to understand the educative motives which taught their 
parents to respect the house, became ignorant little vandals, defacing 
the walls and stairs. And here we have another reform the expense of 
which may be considered as indirectly assumed by the tenants as was the 
care of the building. This reform may be considered as the most 
brilliant transformation of a tax which progress and civilisation have 
as yet devised. The "Children's House" is earned by the parents through 
the care of the building. Its expenses are met by the sum that the 
Association would have otherwise been forced to spend upon repairs. A 
wonderful climax, this, of moral benefits received! Within the 
"Children's House," which belongs exclusively to those children under 
school age, working mothers may safely leave their little ones, and may 
proceed with a feeling of great relief and freedom to their own work. 
But this benefit, like that of the care of the house, is not conferred 
without a tax of care and of good will. [6]The Regulations posted on the 
walls announce it thus: 

[6] See page 70. 

"The mothers are obliged to send their children to the 'Children's 
House' clean, and to co-operate with the Directress in the educational 
work. " 

Two obligations: namely, the physical and moral care of their own 
children. If the child shows through its conversation that the 
educational work of the school is being undermined by the attitude taken 
in his home, he will be sent back to his parents, to teach them thus how 
to take advantage of their good opportunities. Those who give themselves 
over to low-living, to fighting, and to brutality, shall feel upon them 
the weight of those little lives, so needing care. They shall feel that 
they themselves have once more cast into the darkness of neglect those 
little creatures who are the dearest part of the family. In other words, 
the parents must learn to _deserve_ the benefit of having within the 
house the great advantage of a school for their little ones. 

"Good will," a willingness to meet the demands of the Association is 
enough, for the directress is ready and willing to teach them how. The 
regulations say that the mother must go at least once a week, to confer 
with the directress, giving an account of her child, and accepting any 
helpful advice which the directress may be able to give. The advice thus 
given will undoubtedly prove most illuminating in regard to the child's 
health and education, since to each of the "Children's Houses" is 
assigned a physician as well as a directress. 

The directress is always at the disposition of the mothers, and her 
life, as a cultured and educated person, is a constant example to the 
inhabitants of the house, for she is obliged to live in the tenement and 
to be therefore a co-habitant with the families of all her little 
pupils. This is a fact of immense importance. Among these almost savage 
people, into these houses where at night no one dared go about unarmed, 
there has come not only to teach, _but to live the very life they live_, 
a gentlewoman of culture, an educator by profession, who dedicates her 
time and her life to helping those about her! A true missionary, a moral 
queen among the people, she may, if she be possessed of sufficient tact 
and heart, reap an unheard-of harvest of good from her social work. 

This house is verily _new_; it would seem a dream impossible of 
realisation, but it has been tried. It is true that there have been 
before this attempts made by generous persons to go and live among the 
poor to civilise them. But such work is not practical, unless the house 
of the poor is hygienic, making it possible for people of better 
standards to live there. Nor can such work succeed in its purpose unless 
some common advantage or interest unites all of the tenants in an effort 
toward better things. 

This tenement is new also because of the pedagogical organisation of the 
"Children's House." This is not simply a place where the children are 
kept, not just an _asylum_, but a true school for their education, and 
its methods are inspired by the rational principles of scientific 

The physical development of the children is followed, each child being 
studied from the anthropological standpoint. Linguistic exercises, a 
systematic sense-training, and exercises which directly fit the child 
for the duties of practical life, form the basis of the work done. The 
teaching is decidedly objective, and presents an unusual richness of 
didactic material. 

It is not possible to speak of all this in detail. I must, however, 
mention that there already exists in connection with the school a 
bathroom, where the children may be given hot or cold baths and where 
they may learn to take a partial bath, hands, face, neck, ears. Wherever 
possible the Association has provided a piece of ground in which the 
children may learn to cultivate the vegetables in common use. 

It is important that I speak here of the pedagogical progress attained 
by the "Children's House" as an institution. Those who are conversant 
with the chief problems of the school know that to-day much attention is 
given to a great principle, one that is ideal and almost beyond 
realisation, — the union of the family and the school in the matter of 
educational aims. But the family is always something far away from the 
school, and is almost always regarded as rebelling against its ideals. 
It is a species of phantom upon which the school can never lay its 
hands. The home is closed not only to pedagogical progress, but often to 
social progress. We see here for the first time the possibility of 
realising the long-talked-of pedagogical ideal. We have put _the school 
within the house_; and this is not all. We have placed it within the 
house as the _property of the collectivity_, leaving under the eyes of 
the parents the whole life of the teacher in the accomplishment of her 
high mission. 

This idea of the collective ownership of the school is new and very 
beautiful and profoundly educational. 

The parents know that the "Children's House" is their property, and is 
maintained by a portion of the rent they pay. The mothers may go at any 
hour of the day to watch, to admire, or to meditate upon the life 
there. It is in every way a continual stimulus to reflection, and a 
fount of evident blessing and help to their own children. We may say 
that the mothers _adore_ the "Children's House," and the directress. How 
many delicate and thoughtful attentions these good mothers show the 
teacher of their little ones! They often leave sweets or flowers upon 
the sill of the schoolroom window, as a silent token, reverently, almost 
religiously, given. 

And when after three years of such a novitiate, the mothers send their 
children to the common schools, they will be excellently prepared to 
co-operate in the work of education, and will have acquired a sentiment, 
rarely found even among the best classes; namely, the idea that they 
must _merit_ through their own conduct and with their own virtue, the 
possession of an educated son. 

Another advance made by the "Children's Houses" as an institution is 
related to scientific pedagogy. This branch of pedagogy, heretofore, 

being based upon the anthropological study of the pupil whom it is to 
educate, has touched only a few of the positive questions which tend to 
transform education. For a man is not only a biological but a social 
product, and the social environment of individuals in the process of 
education, is the home. Scientific pedagogy will seek in vain to better 
the new generation if it does not succeed in influencing also the 
environment within which this new generation grows! I believe, 
therefore, that in opening the house to the light of new truths, and to 
the progress of civilisation we have solved the problem of being able to 
modify directly, the _environment_ of the new generation, and have thus 
made it possible to apply, in a practical way, the fundamental 
principles of scientific pedagogy. 

The "Children's House" marks still another triumph; it is the first step 
toward the _socialisation of the house_. The inmates find under their 
own roof the convenience of being able to leave their little ones in a 
place, not only safe, but where they have every advantage. 

And let it be remembered that _all_ the mothers in the tenement may 
enjoy this privilege, going away to their work with easy minds. Until 
the present time only one class in society might have this advantage. 
Rich women were able to go about their various occupations and 
amusements, leaving their children in the hands of a nurse or a 
governess. To-day the women of the people who live in these remodeled 
houses, may say, like the great lady, "I have left my son with the 
governess and the nurse." More than this, they may add, like the 
princess of the blood, "And the house physician watches over them and 
directs their sane and sturdy growth." These women, like the most 
advanced class of English and American mothers, possess a "Biographical 
Chart," which, filled for the mother by the directress and the doctor, 
gives her the most practical knowledge of her child's growth and 

We are all familiar with the ordinary advantages of the communistic 
transformation of the general environment. For example, the collective 
use of railway carriages, of street lights, of the telephone, all these 
are great advantages. The enormous production of useful articles, 
brought about by industrial progress, makes possible to all, clean 
clothes, carpets, curtains, table-delicacies, better tableware, etc. The 
making of such benefits generally tends to level social caste. All this 
we have seen in its reality. But the communising of _persons_ is new. 
That the collectivity shall benefit from the services of the servant, 
the nurse, the teacher — this is a modern ideal. 

We have in the "Children's Houses" a demonstration of this ideal which 
is unique in Italy or elsewhere. Its significance is most profound, for 
it corresponds to a need of the times. We can no longer say that the 
convenience of leaving their children takes away from the mother a 
natural social duty of first importance; namely, that of caring for and 
educating her tender offspring. No, for to-day the social and economic 
evolution calls the working-woman to take her place among wage-earners, 
and takes away from her by force those duties which would be most dear 
to her! The mother must, in any event, leave her child, and often with 
the pain of knowing him to be abandoned. The advantages furnished by 
such institutions are not limited to the labouring classes, but extend 
also to the general middle-class, many of whom work with the brain. 
Teachers, professors, often obliged to give private lessons after school 
hours, frequently leave their children to the care, of some rough and 
ignorant maid-of-all-work. Indeed, the first announcement of the 
"Children's House" was followed by a deluge of letters from persons of 
the better class demanding that these helpful reforms be extended to 
their dwellings. 

We are, then, communising a "maternal function," a feminine duty, within 
the house. We may see here in this practical act the solving of many of 
woman's problems which have seemed to many impossible of solution. What 
then will become of the home, one asks, if the woman goes away from it? 
The home will be transformed and will assume the functions of the woman. 

I believe that in the future of society other forms of communistic life 
will come. 

Take, for example, the infirmary; woman is the natural nurse for the 
dear ones of her household. But who does not know how often in these 
days she is obliged to tear herself unwillingly from the bedside of her 
sick to go to her work? Competition is great, and her absence from her 
post threatens the tenure of the position from which she draws the means 
of support. To be able to leave the sick one in a "house-infirmary," to 
which she may have access any free moments she may have, and where she 
is at liberty to watch during the night, would be an evident advantage 
to such a woman. 

And how great would be the progress made in the matter of family 
hygiene, in all that relates to isolation and disinfection! Who does not 
know the difficulties of a poor family when one child is ill of some 
contagions disease, and should be isolated from the others? Often such a 
family may have no kindred or friends in the city to whom the other 
children may be sent. 

Much more distant, but not impossible, is the communal kitchen, where 
the dinner ordered in the morning is sent at the proper time, by means 
of a dumb-waiter, to the family dining-room. Indeed, this has been 
successfully tried in America. Such a reform would be of the greatest 
advantage to those families of the middle-class who must confide their 
health and the pleasures of the table to the hands of an ignorant 
servant who ruins the food. At present, the only alternative in such 
cases is to go outside the home to some cafE where a cheap table d'hUte 
may be had. 

Indeed, the transformation of the house must compensate for the loss in 
the family of the presence of the woman who has become a social 

In this way the house will become a centre, drawing into itself all 
those good things which have hitherto been lacking: schools, public 
baths, hospitals, etc. 

Thus the tendency will be to change the tenement houses, which have been 
places of vice and peril, into centres of education, of refinement, of 
comfort. This will be helped if, besides the schools for the children, 
there may grow up also _clubs_ and reading-rooms for the inhabitants, 
especially for the men, who will find there a way to pass the evening 
pleasantly and decently. The tenement-club, as possible and as useful in 
all social classes as is the "Children's House," will do much toward 
closing the gambling-houses and saloons to the great moral advantage of 
the people. And I believe that the Association of Good Building will 
before long establish such clubs in its reformed tenements here in the 
Quarter of San Lorenzo; clubs where the tenants may find newspapers and 
books, and where they may hear simple and helpful lectures. 

We are, then, very far from the dreaded dissolution of the home and of 
the family, through the fact that woman has been forced by changed 
social and economic conditions to give her time and strength to 
remunerative work. The home itself assumes the gentle feminine 
attributes of the domestic housewife. The day may come when the tenant, 
having given to the proprietor of the house a certain sum, shall receive 
in exchange whatever is necessary to the _comfort_ of life; in other 
words, the administration shall become the _steward_ of the family. 

The house, thus considered, tends to assume in its evolution a 
significance more exalted than even the English word "home" expresses. 
It does not consist of walls alone, though these walls be the pure and 
shining guardians of that intimacy which is the sacred symbol of the 
family. The home shall become more than this. It lives! It has a soul. 
It may be said to embrace its inmates with the tender, consoling arms 
of woman. It is the giver of moral life, of blessings; it cares for, it 

educates and feeds the little ones. Within it, the tired workman shall 
find rest and newness of life. He shall find there the intimate life of 
the family, and its happiness. 

The new woman, like the butterfly come forth from the chrysalis, shall 
be liberated from all those attributes which once made her desirable to 
man only as the source of the material blessings of existence. She shall 
be, like man, an individual, a free human being, a social worker; and, 
like man, she shall seek blessing and repose within the house, the house 
which has been reformed and communised. 

She shall wish to be loved for herself and not as a giver of comfort and 
repose. She shall wish a love free from every form of servile labour. 
The goal of human love is not the egotistical end of assuring its own 
satisfaction — it is the sublime goal of multiplying the forces of the 
free spirit, making it almost Divine, and, within such beauty and light, 
perpetuating the species. 

This ideal love is made incarnate by Frederick Nietzsche, in the woman 
of Zarathustra, who conscientiously wished her son to be better than 
she. "Why do you desire me?" she asks the man. "Perhaps because of the 
perils of a solitary life? 

"In that case go far from me. I wish the man who has conquered himself, 
who has made his soul great. I wish the man who has conserved a clean 
and robust body. I wish the man who desires to unite with me, body and 
soul, to create a son! A son better, more perfect, stronger, than any 
created heretofore!" 

To better the species consciously, cultivating his own health, his own 
virtue, this should be the goal of man's married life. It is a sublime 
concept of which, as yet, few think. And the socialised home of the 
future, living, provident, kindly; educator and comforter; is the true 
and worthy home of those human mates who wish to better the species, and 
to send the race forward triumphant into the eternity of life! 


The Roman Association of Good Building hereby establishes within its 
tenement house number, a "Children's House," in which may be gathered 
together all children under common school age, belonging to the families 
of the tenants. 

The chief aim of the "Children's House" is to offer, free of charge, to 
the children of those parents who are obliged to absent themselves for 
their work, the personal care which the parents are not able to give. 

In the "Children's House" attention is given to the education, the 
health, the physical and moral development of the children. This work is 
carried on in a way suited to the age of the children. 

There shall be connected with the "Children's House" a Directress, a 
Physician, and a Caretaker. 

The programme and hours of the "Children's House" shall be fixed by the 

There may be admitted to the "Children's House" all the children in the 
tenement between the ages of three and seven. 

The parents who wish to avail themselves of the advantages of the 
"Children's House" pay nothing. They must, however, assume these binding 

(a) To send their children to the "Children's House" at the 
appointed time, clean in body and clothing, and provided with 
a suitable apron. 

(b) To show the greatest respect and deference toward the 
Directress and toward all persons connected with the 
"Children's House," and to co-operate with the Directress 
herself in the education of the children. Once a week, at 
least, the mothers may talk with the Directress, giving her 
information concerning the home life of the child, and 
receiving helpful advice from her. 

There shall be expelled from the "Children's House": 

(a) Those children who present themselves unwashed, or in 
soiled clothing. 

(b) Those who show themselves to be incorrigible. 

(c) Those whose parents fail in respect to the persons 
connected with the "Children's House," or who destroy through 
bad conduct the educational work of the institution. 



As soon as I knew that I had at my disposal a class of little children, 
it was my wish to make of this school a field for scientific 
experimental pedagogy and child psychology. I started with a view in 
which Wundt concurs; namely, that child psychology does not exist. 
Indeed, experimental researches in regard to childhood, as, for example, 
those of Preyer and Baldwin, have been made upon not more than two or 
three subjects, children of the investigators. Moreover, the instruments 
of psychometry must be greatly modified and simplified before they can 
be used with children, who do not lend themselves passively as subjects 
for experimentation. Child psychology can be established only through 
the method of external observation. We must renounce all idea of making 
any record of internal states, which can be revealed only by the 
introspection of the subject himself. The instruments of psychometric 
research, as applied to pedagogy, have up to the present time been 
limited to the esthesiometric phase of the study. 

My intention was to keep in touch with the researches of others, but to 
make myself independent of them, proceeding to my work without 
preconceptions of any kind. I retained as the only essential, the 
affirmation, or, rather, the definition of Wundt, that "all methods of 
experimental psychology may be reduced to one; namely, carefully 
recorded observation of the subject." 

Treating of children, another factor must necessarily intervene: the 
study of the development. Here too, I retained the same general 
criterion, but without clinging to any dogma about the activity of the 
child according to age. 


In regard to physical development, my first thought was given to the 
regulating of anthropometric observations, and to the selection of the 
most important observations to be made. 

I designed an anthropometer provided with the metric scale, varying 
between .50 metre and 1.50 metres. A small stool, 30 centimetres high, 
could be placed upon the floor of the anthropometer for measurements 
taken in a sitting position. I now advise making the anthropometer with 
a platform on either side of the pole bearing the scale, so that on one 

side the total stature can be measured, and on the other the height of 
the body when seated. In the second case, the zero is indicated at 30 
centimetres; that is, it corresponds to the seat of the stool, which is 
fixed. The indicators on the vertical post are independent one of the 
other and this makes it possible to measure two children at the same 
time. In this way the inconvenience and waste of time caused by having 
to move the seat about, is obviated, and also the trouble of having to 
calculate the difference in the metric scale. 

Having thus facilitated the technique of the researches, I decided to 
take the measurements of the children's stature, seated and standing, 
every month, and in order to have these regulated as exactly as possible 
in their relation to development, and also to give greater regularity 
to the research work of the teacher, I made a rule that the measurements 
should be taken on the day on which the child completed each month of 
his age. For this purpose I designed a register arranged on the 
following plan: — 


++ + 

Day of | | Stature | Stature Etc. 
month |+ + + + 

j | Standing | Sitting | Standing | Sitting 
++ + + + 

1 II II I 

I + + + + 

2 I I I 
1+ + 

3 II II I 

| + + + + 

4 II II I 

| + + + + 

Etc. || | | | 
++ + + + 

The spaces opposite each number are used to register the name of the 
child born on that day of the month. Thus the teacher knows which 
scholars she must measure on the days which are marked on the calendar, 
and she fills in his measurements to correspond with the month in which 
he was born. In this way a most exact registration can be arrived at 
without having the teacher feel that she is overburdened, or fatigued. 

With regard to the weight of the child, I have arranged that it shall be 
taken every week on a pair of scales which I have placed in the 
dressing-room where the children are given their bath. According to the 
day on which the child is born, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., we 
have him weighed when he is ready to take a bath. Thus the children's 
baths (no small matter when we consider a class of fifty) are 
sub-divided into seven days, and from three to five children go to the 
bath every day. Certainly, theoretically, a daily bath would be 
desirable, but in order to manage this a large bath or a number of small 
ones would be necessary, so that a good many children could be bathed at 
once. Even a weekly bath entails many difficulties, and sometimes has to 
be given up. In any case, I have distributed the taking of the weight in 
the order stated with the intention of thus arranging for and making 
sure of periodical baths. [7] 

[7] Incidentally, I may say, that I have invented a means 
of bathing children contemporaneously, without having a 
large bath. In order to manage this, I thought of having a 
long trough with supports at the bottom, on which small, 
separate tubs could rest, with rather large holes in the 
bottom. The little tubs are filled from the large trough, into 
which the water runs and then goes into all the little tubs 
together, by the law of the levelling of liquids, going 
through the holes in the bottom. When the water is settled, it 
does not pass from tub to tub, and the children will each have 

their own bath. The emptying of the trough brings with it the 
simultaneous emptying of the little tubs, which being of light 
metal, will be easily moved from the bottom of the big tub, in 
order to clean it. It is not difficult to imagine arranging a 
cork for the hole at the bottom. These are only projects for 
the future! 

The form here given shows the register which we use in recording the 
weight of the children. Every page of the register corresponds to a 

It seems to me that the anthropological measurements, the taking and 
recording of which I have just described, should be the only ones with 
which the schoolmistress need occupy herself; and, therefore, the only 
ones which should be taken actually within the school. It is my plan 
that other measurements should be taken by a physician, who either is, 
or is preparing to be, a specialist in infant anthropology. In the 
meantime, I take these special measurements myself. 


1st week 



2nd week 

3rd week 

4th week 



Etc. j ! | I 

The examination made by the physician must necessarily be complex, and 
to facilitate and regulate the taking of these measurements I have 
designed and had printed biological charts, of which I here give an 

_Number _Date 

Name and Surname _Age 

Name of Parents Mother's Age Father's Age. 


Details of Hereditary Antecedents 

Personal Antecedents 






Index of 

Index [9] 

t r 

| HEAD | 

i | Dia. | Dia. 

| Cephalic j 

j Cir. j Front j Across 

i Index j 

! | to Back | 

j + + 

1 I 

-+ 1 

1 1 

+ + + 

-+ 1 

1 1 
-+ + 

Physical Constitution 
Condition of Muscles_ 

Colour of Skin 

Colour of Hair 


[8] For the Index of Stature Dr. Montessori combines the seated and 
standing statures. 

[9] The Ponderal Index is found by combining the height and weight. 

As will be seen, these charts are very simple. I made them so because I 
wished the doctor and the schoolmistress to be able to use them freely 
and independently. 

By this method the anthropometrical records are arranged in an orderly 
way, while the simplicity of the mechanism, and the clearness of the 
charts, guarantee the making of such observations as I have considered 
fundamental. Referring to the physician's biographical chart, I advise 
that once a year the following measurements be taken: Circumference of 
the head; the two greater diameters of the head; the circumference of 
the chest; and the cephalic, ponderal, and stature indices. Further 
information concerning the selection of these measurements may be found 
in my treatise, "Ant ropologia Pedagogica." The physician is asked to 
take these measurements during the week, or at least within the month, 
in which the child completes a year of his age, and, if it is possible, 
on the birthday itself. In this way the task of the physician will also 
be made easier, because of its regularity. We have, at the most, fifty 
children in each of our schools, and the birthdays of these scattered 
over the 365 days of the year make it possible for the physician to take 
his measurements from time to time, so that the burden of his work is 

not heavy. It is the duty of the teacher to inform the doctor of the 
birthdays of the children. 

The taking of these anthropometrical measurements has also an 
educational side to it, for the pupils, when they leave the "Children's 
House," know how to answer with clearness and certainty the following 
questions: — 

On what day of the week were you born? 
On what day of the month? 
When does your birthday come? 

And with all this they will have acquired habits of order, and, above 
all, they will have formed the habit of observing themselves. Indeed, I 
may say here, that the children take a great pleasure in being measured; 
at the first glance of the teacher and at the word stature, the child 
begins instantly to take off his shoes, laughing and running to place 
himself upon the platform of the anthropometer; placing himself of his 
own accord in the normal position so perfectly that the teacher needs 
only to arrange the indicator and read the result. 

Aside from the measurements which the physician takes with the ordinary 
instruments (calipers and metal yard measure), he makes observations 
upon the children's colouring, condition of their muscles, state of 
their lymphatic glands, the condition of the blood, etc. He notices any 
malformations; describes any pathological conditions with care (any 
tendency to rickets, infant paralysis, defective sight, etc.). This 
objective study of the child will guide the doctor when he finds it 
advisable to talk with the parents concerning its condition. Following 
this, when the doctor has found it desirable, he makes a thorough, 
sanitary inspection of the home of the child, prescribing necessary 
treatment and eventually doing away with such troubles as eczema, 
inflammation of the ear, feverish conditions, intestinal disturbances, 
etc. This careful following of the case in hand is greatly assisted by 
the existence of the _dispensary within the house_, which makes feasible 
direct treatment and continual observation. 

I have found that the usual question asked patients who present 
themselves at the clinics, are not adapted for use in our schools, as 
the members of the families living in these tenements are for the 
greater part perfectly normal. 

I therefore encourage the directress of the school to gather from her 
conversations with the mothers information of a more practical sort. She 
informs herself as to the education of the parents, their habits, the 
wages earned, the money spent for household purposes, etc., and from all 
this she outlines a history of each family, much on the order of those 
used by Le-Play. This method is, of course, practical only where the 
directress lives among the families of her scholars. 

In every case, however, the physician's advice to the mothers concerning 
the hygienic care of each particular child, as well as his directions 
concerning hygiene in general, will prove most helpful. The directress 
should act as the go-between in these matters, since she is in the 
confidence of the mothers, and since from her, such advice comes 


The method of _observation_ must undoubtedly include the _methodical 
observation_ of the morphological growth of the pupils. But let me 
repeat that, while this element necessarily enters, it is not upon this 
particular kind of observation that the method is established. 

The method of observation is established upon one fundamental base — _the 

liberty of the pupils in their spontaneous manif estations_. 

With this in view, I first turned my attention to the question of 
environment, and this, of course, included the furnishing of the 
schoolroom. In considering an ample playground with space for a garden 
as an important part of this school environment, I am not suggesting 
anything new. 

The novelty lies, perhaps, in my idea for the use of this open-air 
space, which is to be in direct communication with the schoolroom, so 
that the children may be free to go and come as they like, throughout 
the entire day. I shall speak of this more fully later on. 

The principal modification in the matter of school furnishings is the 
abolition of desks, and benches or stationary chairs. I have had tables 
made with wide, solid, octagonal legs, spreading in such a way that the 
tables are at the same time solidly firm and very light, so light, 
indeed, that two four-year-old children can easily carry them about. 
These tables are rectangular and sufficiently large to accommodate two 
children on the long side, there being room for three if they sit rather 
close together. There are smaller tables at which one child may work 

I also designed and had manufactured little chairs. My first plan for 
these was to have them cane seated, but experience has shown the wear on 
these to be so great, that I now have chairs made entirely of wood. 
These are very light and of an attractive shape. In addition to these, I 
have in each schoolroom a number of comfortable little armchairs, some 
of wood and some of wicker. 

Another piece of our school furniture consists of a little washstand, so 
low that it can be used by even a three-year-old child. This is painted 
with a white waterproof enamel and, besides the broad, upper and lower 
shelves which hold the little white enameled basins and pitchers, there 
are small side shelves for the soap-dishes, nail-brushes, towels, etc. 
There is also a receptacle into which the basins may be emptied. 
Wherever possible, a small cupboard provides each child with a space 
where he may keep his own soap, nail-brush, tooth-brush, etc. 

In each of our schoolrooms we have provided a series of long low 
cupboards, especially designed for the reception of the didactic 
materials. The doors of these cupboards open easily, and the care of the 
materials is confided to the children. The tops of these cases furnish 
room for potted plants, small aquariums, or for the various toys with 
which the children are allowed to play freely. We have ample blackboard 
space, and these boards are so hung as to be easily used by the smallest 
child. Each blackboard is provided with a small case in which are kept 
the chalk, and the white cloths which we use instead of the ordinary 

Above the blackboards are hung attractive pictures, chosen carefully, 
representing simple scenes in which children would naturally be 
interested. Among the pictures in our "Children's Houses" in Rome we 
have hung a copy of Raphael's "Madonna della Seggiola," and this picture 
we have chosen as the emblem of the "Children's Houses." For indeed, 
these "Children's Houses" represent not only social progress, but 
universal human progress, and are closely related to the elevation of 
the idea of motherhood, to the progress of woman and to the protection 
of her offspring. In this beautiful conception, Raphael has not only 
shown us the Madonna as a Divine Mother holding in her arms the babe who 
is greater than she, but by the side of this symbol of all motherhood, 
he has placed the figure of St. John, who represents humanity. 
So in Raphael's picture we see humanity rendering homage to 
maternity, — maternity, the sublime fact in the definite triumph of 
humanity. In addition to this beautiful symbolism, the picture has a 
value as being one of the greatest works of art of Italy's greatest 
artist. And if the day shall come when the "Children's Houses" shall be 
established throughout the world, it is our wish that this picture of 

Raphael's shall have its place in each of the schools, speaking 
eloquently of the country in which they originated. 

The children, of course, cannot comprehend the symbolic significance of 
the "Madonna of the Chair," but they will see something more beautiful 
than that which they feel in more ordinary pictures, in which they see 
mother, father, and children. And the constant companionship with this 
picture will awaken in their heart a religious impression. 

This, then, is the environment which I have selected for the children we 
wish to educate. 

I know the first objection which will present itself to the minds of 
persons accustomed to the old-time methods of discipline; — the children 
in these schools, moving about, will overturn the little tables and 
chairs, producing noise and disorder; but this is a prejudice which has 
long existed in the minds of those dealing with little children, and for 
which there is no real foundation. 

Swaddling clothes have for many centuries been considered necessary to 
the new-born babe, walking-chairs to the child who is learning to walk. 
So in the school, we still believe it necessary to have heavy desks and 
chairs fastened to the floor. All these things are based upon the idea 
that the child should grow in immobility, and upon the strange prejudice 
that, in order to execute any educational movement, we must maintain a 
special position of the body; — as we believe that we must assume a 
special position when we are about to pray. 

Our little tables and our various types of chairs are all light and 
easily transported, and we permit the child to _select_ the position 
which he finds most comfortable. He can _make himself comfortable_ as 
well as seat himself in his own place. And this freedom is not only an 
external sign of liberty, but a means of education. If by an awkward 
movement a child upsets a chair, which falls noisily to the floor, he 
will have an evident proof of his own incapacity; the same movement had 
it taken place amid stationary benches would have passed unnoticed by 
him. Thus the child has some means by which he can correct himself, and 
having done so he will have before him the actual proof of the power he 
has gained: the little tables and chairs remain firm and silent each in 
its own place. It is plainly seen that the _child has learned to command 
his movements_. 

In the old method, the proof of discipline attained lay in a fact 
entirely contrary to this; that is, in the immobility and silence of the 
child himself. Immobility and silence which _hindered_ the child from 
learning to move with grace and with discernment, and left him so 
untrained, that, when he found himself in an environment where the 
benches and chairs were not nailed to the floor, he was not able to move 
about without overturning the lighter pieces of furniture. In the 
"Children's Houses" the child will not only learn to move gracefully and 
properly, but will come to understand the reason for such deportment. 
The ability to move which he acquires here will be of use to him all his 
life. While he is still a child, he becomes capable of conducting 
himself correctly, and yet, with perfect freedom. 

The Directress of the Casa dei Bambini at Milan constructed under one of 
the windows a long, narrow shelf upon which she placed the little tables 
containing the metal geometric forms used in the first lessons in 
design. But the shelf was too narrow, and it often happened that the 
children in selecting the pieces which they wished to use would allow 
one of the little tables to fall to the floor, thus upsetting with great 
noise all the metal pieces which it held. The directress intended to 
have the shelf changed, but the carpenter was slow in coming, and while 
waiting for him she discovered that the children had learned to handle 
these materials so carefully that in spite of the narrow and sloping 
shelf, the little tables no longer fell to the floor. 

The children, by carefully directing their movements, had overcome the 
defect in this piece of furniture. The simplicity or imperfection of 
external objects often serves to develop the _activity_ and the 
dexterity of the pupils. This has been one of the surprises of our 
method as applied in the "Children's Houses." 

It all seems very logical, and now that it has been actually tried and 
put into words, it will no doubt seem to everyone as simple as the egg 
of Christopher Columbus. 


The pedagogical method of _observation_ has for its base the _liberty_ 
of the child; and _liberty is activity_. 

Discipline must come through liberty. Here is a great principle which is 
difficult for followers of common-school methods to understand. How 
shall one obtain _discipline_ in a class of free children? Certainly in 
our system, we have a concept of discipline very different from that 
commonly accepted. If discipline is founded upon liberty, the discipline 
itself must necessarily be _active_. We do not consider an individual 
disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a 
mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual _annihilated_, 
not _disciplined_. 

We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself, and can, 
therefore, regulate his own conduct when it shall be necessary to follow 
some rule of life. Such a concept of _active discipline_ is not easy 
either to comprehend or to apply. But certainly it contains a great 
_educational_ principle, very different from the old-time absolute and 
undiscussed coercion to immobility. 

A special technique is necessary to the teacher who is to lead the child 
along such a path of discipline, if she is to make it possible for him 
to continue in this way all his life, advancing indefinitely toward 
perfect self-mastery. Since the child now learns to _move_ rather than 
to _sit still_, he prepares himself not for the school, but for life; 
for he becomes able, through habit and through practice, to perform 
easily and correctly the simple acts of social or community life. The 
discipline to which the child habituates himself here is, in its 
character, not limited to the school environment but extends to society. 

The liberty of the child should have as its _limit_ the collective 
interest; as its _form_, what we universally consider good breeding. We 
must, therefore, check in the child whatever offends or annoys others, 
or whatever tends toward rough or ill-bred acts. But all the 
rest, — every manifestation having a useful scope, — whatever it be, and 
under whatever form it expresses itself, must not only be permitted, but 
must be _observed_ by the teacher. Here lies the essential point; from 
her scientific preparation, the teacher must bring not only the 
capacity, but the desire, to observe natural phenomena. In our system, 
she must become a passive, much more than an active, influence, and her 
passivity shall be composed of anxious scientific curiosity, and of 
absolute _respect_ for the phenomenon which she wishes to observe. The 
teacher must understand and _feel_ her position of _observer_: the 
_activity_ must lie in the _phenomenon_. 

Such principles assuredly have a place in schools for little children 
who are exhibiting the first psychic manifestations of their lives. We 
cannot know the consequences of suffocating a _spontaneous action_ at 
the time when the child is just beginning to be active: perhaps we 
suffocate _life itself_. Humanity shows itself in all its intellectual 

splendour during this tender age as the sun shows itself at the dawn, 
and the flower in the first unfolding of the petals; and we must 
_respect_ religiously, reverently, these first indications of 
individuality. If any educational act is to be efficacious, it will be 
only that which tends to _help_ toward the complete unfolding of this 
life. To be thus helpful it is necessary rigorously to avoid the 
_arrest_ of _spontaneous movements and the imposition of arbitrary 
tasks_. It is of course understood, that here we do not speak of useless 
or dangerous acts, for these must be _suppressed_, _destroyed_. 

Actual training and practice are necessary to fit for this method 
teachers who have not been prepared for scientific observation, and such 
training is especially necessary to those who have been accustomed to 
the old domineering methods of the common school. My experiences in 
training teachers for the work in my schools did much to convince me of 
the great distance between these methods and those. Even an intelligent 
teacher, who understands the principle, finds much difficulty in putting 
it into practice. She can not understand that her new task is apparently 
_passive_, like that of the astronomer who sits immovable before the 
telescope while the worlds whirl through space. This idea, that _life 
acts of itself_, and that in order to study it, to divine its secrets or 
to direct its activity, it is necessary to observe it and to understand 
it without intervening — this idea, I say, is very difficult for anyone 
to _assimilate_ and _to put into practice_. 

The teacher has too thoroughly learned to be the one free activity of 
the school; it has for too long been virtually her duty to suffocate the 
activity of her pupils. When in the first days in one of the "Children's 
Houses" she does not obtain order and silence, she looks about her 
embarrassed as if asking the public to excuse her, and calling upon 
those present to testify to her innocence. In vain do we repeat to her 
that the disorder of the first moment is necessary. And finally, when we 
oblige her to do nothing but _watch_, she asks if she had not better 
resign, since she is no longer a teacher. 

But when she begins to find it her duty to discern which are the acts to 
hinder and which are those to observe, the teacher of the old school 
feels a great void within herself and begins to ask if she will not be 
inferior to her new task. In fact, she who is not prepared finds herself 
for a long time abashed and impotent; whereas the broader the teacher's 
scientific culture and practice in experimental psychology, the sooner 
will come for her the marvel of unfolding life, and her interest in it. 

Notari, in his novel, "My Millionaire Uncle," which is a criticism of 
modern customs, gives with that quality of vividness which is peculiar 
to him, a most eloquent example of the old-time methods of discipline. 
The "uncle" when a child was guilty of such a number of disorderly acts 
that he practically upset the whole town, and in desperation he was 
confined in a school. Here "Fufu," as he was called, experiences his 
first wish to be kind, and feels the first moving of his soul when he is 
near to the pretty little Fufetta, and learns that she is hungry and has 
no luncheon. 

"He glanced around, looked at Fufetta, rose, took his little lunch 
basket, and without saying a word placed it in her lap. 

"Then he ran away from her, and, without knowing why he did so, hung his 
head and burst into tears. 

"My uncle did not know how to explain to himself the reason for this 
sudden outburst. 

"He had seen for the first time two kind eyes full of sad tears, and he 
had felt moved within himself, and at the same time a great shame had 
rushed over him; the shame of eating near to one who had nothing to eat. 

"Not knowing how to express the impulse of his heart, nor what to say in 

asking her to accept the offer of his little basket, nor how to invent 
an excuse to justify his offering it to her, he remained the victim of 
this first deep movement of his little soul. 

"Fufetta, all confused, ran to him quickly. With great gentleness she 
drew away the arm in which he had hidden his face. 

"'Do not cry, Fufu, 1 she said to him softly, almost as if pleading with 
him. She might have been speaking to her beloved rag doll, so motherly 
and intent was her little face, and so full of gentle authority, her 

"Then the little girl kissed him, and my uncle yielding to the influence 
which had filled his heart, put his arms around her neck, and, still 
silent and sobbing, kissed her in return. At last, sighing deeply, he 
wiped from his face and eyes the damp traces of his emotion, and smiled 

"A strident voice called out from the other end of the courtyard: 

"'Here, here, you two down there — be quick with you; inside, both of 
you ! ' 

"It was the teacher, the guardian. She crushed that first gentle 
stirring in the soul of a rebel with the same blind brutality that she 
would have used toward two children engaged in a fight. 

"It was the time for all to go back into the school — and everybody had 
to obey the rule." 

Thus I saw my teachers act in the first days of my practice school in 
the "Children's Houses." They almost involuntarily recalled the children 
to immobility without _observing_ and _distinguishing_ the nature of 
the movements they repressed. There was, for example, a little girl who 
gathered her companions about her and then, in the midst of them, began 
to talk and gesticulate. The teacher at once ran to her, took hold of 
her arms, and told her to be still; but I, observing the child, saw that 
she was playing at being teacher or mother to the others, and teaching 
them the morning prayer, the invocation to the saints, and the sign of 
the cross: she already showed herself as a _director_. Another child, 
who continually made disorganised and misdirected movements, and who was 
considered abnormal, one day, with an expression of intense attention, 
set about moving the tables. Instantly they were upon him to make him 
stand still because he made too much noise. Yet this was one of the 
_first manif estations_, in this child, of _movements_ that were 
_co-ordinated_ and _directed toward a useful end_, and it was therefore 
an action that should have been respected. In fact, after this the child 
began to be quiet and happy like the others whenever he had any small 
objects to move about and to arrange upon his desk. 

It often happened that while the directress replaced in the boxes 
various materials that had been used, a child would draw near, picking 
up the objects, with the evident desire of imitating the teacher. The 
first impulse was to send the child back to her place with the remark, 
"Let it alone; go to your seat." Yet the child expressed by this act a 
desire to be useful; the time, with her, was ripe for a lesson in order. 

One day, the children had gathered themselves, laughing and talking, 
into a circle about a basin of water containing some floating toys. We 
had in the school a little boy barely two and a half years old. He had 
been left outside the circle, alone, and it was easy to see that he was 
filled with intense curiosity. I watched him from a distance with great 
interest; he first drew near to the other children and tried to force 
his way among them, but he was not strong enough to do this, and he then 
stood looking about him. The expression of thought on his little face 
was intensely interesting. I wish that I had had a camera so that I 
might have photographed him. His eye lighted upon a little chair, and 
evidently he made up his mind to place it behind the group of children 

and then to climb up on it. He began to move toward the chair, his face 
illuminated with hope, but at that moment the teacher seized him 
brutally (or, perhaps, she would have said, gently) in her arms, and 
lifting him up above the heads of the other children showed him the 
basin of water, saying, "Come, poor little one, you shall see too!" 

Undoubtedly the child, seeing the floating toys, did not experience the 
joy that he was about to feel through conquering the obstacle with his 
own force. The sight of those objects could be of no advantage to him, 
while his intelligent efforts would have developed his inner powers. 

The teacher _hindered_ the child, in this case, from educating himself, 
without giving him any compensating good in return. The little fellow 
had been about to feel himself a conqueror, and he found himself held 
within two imprisoning arms, impotent. The expression of joy, anxiety, 
and hope, which had interested me so much faded from his face and left 
on it the stupid expression of the child who knows that others will act 
for him. 

When the teachers were weary of my observations, they began to allow the 
children to do whatever they pleased. I saw children with their feet on 
the tables, or with their fingers in their noses, and no intervention 
was made to correct them. I saw others push their companions, and I saw 
dawn in the faces of these an expression of violence; and not the 
slightest attention on the part of the teacher. Then I had to intervene 
to show with what absolute rigour it is necessary to hinder, and little 
by little suppress, all those things which we must not do, so that the 
child may come to discern clearly between good and evil. 

If discipline is to be lasting, its foundations must be laid in this way 
and these first days are the most difficult for the directress. The 
first idea that the child must acquire, in order to be actively 
disciplined, is that of the difference between _good_ and _evil_; and 
the task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound 
_good_ with _immobility_, and _evil_ with _activity_, as often happens 
in the case of the old-time discipline. And all this because our aim is 
to discipline _for activity_, _for work_, _for good_; not for 
_immobility_, not for _passivity_, not for _obedience_. 

A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently, and 
voluntarily, without committing any rough or rude act, would seem to me 
a classroom very well disciplined indeed. 

To seat the children in rows, as in the common schools, to assign to 
each little one a place, and to propose that they shall sit thus quietly 
observant of the order of the whole class as an assemblage — this can be 
attained later, as _the starting place_ of _collective education_. For 
also, in life, it sometimes happens that we must all remain seated and 
quiet; when, for example, we attend a concert or a lecture. And we know 
that even to us, as grown people, this costs no little sacrifice. 

If we can, when we have established individual discipline, arrange the 
children, sending each one to _his own place_, _in order_, trying to 
make them understand the idea that thus placed they look well, and that 
it is a _good thing_ to be thus placed in order, that it is a _good and 
pleasing arrangement in the room_, this ordered and tranquil adjustment 
of theirs — then their remaining in their places, _quiet_ and _silent_, 
is the result of a species of _lesson_, not an _imposition_. To make 
them understand the idea, without calling their attention too forcibly 
to the practice, to have them _assimilate a principle of collective 
order_ — that is the important thing. 

If, after they have understood this idea, they rise, speak, change to 
another place, they no longer do this without knowing and without 
thinking, but they do it because they _wish_ to rise, to speak, etc.; 
that is, from that _state of repose and order_, well understood, they 
depart in order to undertake _some voluntary action_; and knowing that 

there are actions which are prohibited, this will give them a new 
impulse to remember to discriminate between good and evil. 

The movements of the children from the state of order become always more 
co-ordinated and perfect with the passing of the days; in fact, they 
learn to reflect upon their own acts. Now (with the idea of order 
understood by the children) the observation of the way in which the 
children pass from the first disordered movements to those which are 
spontaneous and ordered — this is the book of the teacher; this is the 
book which must inspire her actions; it is the only one in which she 
must read and study if she is to become a real educator. 

For the child with such exercises makes, to a certain extent, a 
selection of his own _tendencies_, which were at first confused in the 
unconscious disorder of his movements. It is remarkable how clearly 
_individual differences_ show themselves, if we proceed in this way; the 
child, conscious and free, _reveals himself_. 

There are those who remain quietly in their seats, apathetic, or drowsy; 
others who leave their places to quarrel, to fight, or to overturn the 
various blocks and toys, and then there are those others who set out to 
fulfil a definite and determined act — moving a chair to some particular 
spot and sitting down in it, moving one of the unused tables and 
arranging upon it the game they wish to play. 

Our idea of liberty for the child cannot be the simple concept of 
liberty we use in the observation of plants, insects, etc. 

The child, because of the peculiar characteristics of helplessness with 
which he is born, and because of his qualities as a social individual is 
circumscribed by _bonds_ which _limit_ his activity. 

An educational method that shall have _liberty_ as its basis must 
intervene to help the child to a conquest of these various obstacles. In 
other words, his training must be such as shall help him to diminish, in 
a rational manner, the _social bonds_, which limit his activity. 

Little by little, as the child grows in such an atmosphere, his 
spontaneous manifestations will become more _clear, with the clearness 
of truth_, revealing his nature. For all these reasons, the first form 
of educational intervention must tend to lead the child toward 


No one can be free unless he is independent: therefore, the first, 
active manifestations of the child's individual liberty must be so 
guided that through this activity he may arrive at independence. Little 
children, from the moment in which they are weaned, are making their way 
toward independence. 

What is a weaned child? In reality it is a child that has become 
independent of the mother's breast. Instead of this one source of 
nourishment he will find various kinds of food; for him the means of 
existence are multiplied, and he can to some extent make a selection of 
his food, whereas he was at first limited absolutely to one form of 

Nevertheless, he is still dependent, since he is not yet able to walk, 
and cannot wash and dress himself, and since he is not yet able to _ask_ 
for things in a language which is clear and easily understood. He is 
still in this period to a great extent the _slave_ of everyone. By the 
age of three, however, the child should have been able to render himself 
to a great extent _independent_ and free. 

That we have not yet thoroughly assimilated the highest concept of the 
term _independence_, is due to the fact that the social form in which we 

live is still _servile_. In an age of civilisation where servants exist, 
the concept of that _form of life_ which is _independence_ cannot take 
root or develop freely. Even so in the time of slavery, the concept of 
liberty was distorted and darkened. 

Our servants are not our dependents, rather it is we who are dependent 
upon them. 

It is not possible to accept universally as a part of our social 
structure such a deep human error without feeling the general effects of 
it in the form of moral inferiority. We often believe ourselves to be 
independent simply because no one commands us, and because we command 
others; but the nobleman who needs to call a servant to his aid is 
really a dependent through his own inferiority. The paralytic who 
cannot take off his boots because of a pathological fact, and the prince 
who dare not take them off because of a social fact, are in reality 
reduced to the same condition. 

Any nation that accepts the idea of servitude and believes that it is an 
advantage for man to be served by man, admits servility as an instinct, 
and indeed we all too easily lend ourselves to _obsequious service_, 
giving to it such complimentary names as _courtesy_, _politeness_, 

In reality, _he who is served is limited_ in his independence. This 
concept will be the foundation of the dignity of the man of the future; 
"I do not wish to be served, _because_ I am not an impotent." And this 
idea must be gained before men can feel themselves to be really free. 

Any pedagogical action, if it is to be efficacious in the training of 
little children, must tend to _help_ the children to advance upon this 
road of independence. We must help them to learn to walk without 
assistance, to run, to go up and down stairs, to lift up fallen objects, 
to dress and undress themselves, to bathe themselves, to speak 
distinctly, and to express their own needs clearly. We must give such 
help as shall make it possible for children to achieve the satisfaction 
of their own individual aims and desires. All this is a part of 
education for independence. 

We habitually _serve_ children; and this is not only an act of servility 
toward them, but it is dangerous, since it tends to suffocate their 
useful, spontaneous activity. We are inclined to believe that children 
are like puppets, and we wash them and feed them as if they were dolls. 
We do not stop to think that the child _who does not do, does not know 
how to do_. He must, nevertheless, do these things, and nature has 
furnished him with the physical means for carrying on these various 
activities, and with the intellectual means for learning how to do them. 
And our duty toward him is, in every case, that of _helping him_ to make 
a conquest of such useful acts as nature intended he should perform for 
himself. The mother who feeds her child without making the least effort 
to teach him to hold the spoon for himself and to try to find his mouth 
with it, and who does not at least eat herself, inviting the child to 
look and see how she does it, is not a good mother. She offends the 
fundamental human dignity of her son, — she treats him as if he were a 
doll, when he is, instead, a man confided by nature to her care. 

Who does not know that to _teach_ a child to feed himself, to wash and 
dress himself, is a much more tedious and difficult work, calling for 
infinitely greater patience, than feeding, washing and dressing the 
child one's self? But the former is the work of an educator, the latter 
is the easy and inferior work of a servant. Not only is it easier for 
the mother, but it is very dangerous for the child, since it doses the 
way and puts obstacles in the path of the life which is developing. 

The ultimate consequences of such an attitude on the part of the parent 
may be very serious indeed. The grand gentleman who has too many 
servants not only grows constantly more and more dependent upon them, 
until he is, finally, actually their slave, but his muscles grow weak 

through inactivity and finally lose their natural capacity for action. 
The mind of one who does not work for that which he needs, but commands 
it from others, grows heavy and sluggish. If such a man should some day 
awaken to the fact of his inferior position and should wish to regain 
once more his own independence, he would find that he had no longer the 
force to do so. These dangers should be presented to the parents of the 
privileged social classes, if their children are to use independently 
and for right the special power which is theirs. Needless help is an 
actual hindrance to the development of natural forces. 

Oriental women wear trousers, it is true, and European women, 
petticoats; but the former, even more than the latter, are taught as a 
part of their education the art of _not moving_. Such an attitude toward 
woman leads to the fact that man works not only for himself, but for 
woman. And the woman wastes her natural strength and activity and 
languishes in slavery. She is not only maintained and served, she is, 
besides, diminished, belittled, in that individuality which is hers by 
right of her existence as a human being. As an individual member of 
society, she is a cypher. She is rendered deficient in all those powers 
and resources which tend to the preservation of life. Let me illustrate 

A carriage containing a father, mother, and child, is going along a 
country road. An armed brigand stops the carriage with the well-known 
phrase, "Your money or your life." Placed in this situation, the three 
persons in the carriage act in very different ways. The man, who is a 
trained marksman, and who is armed with a revolver, promptly draws, and 
confronts the assassin. The boy, armed only with the freedom and 
lightness of his own legs, cries out and betakes himself to flight. The 
woman, who is not armed in any way whatever, neither artificially nor 
naturally (since her limbs, not trained for activity, are hampered by 
her skirts), gives a frightened gasp, and sinks down unconscious. 

These three diverse reactions are in close relation to the state of 
liberty and independence of each of the three individuals. The swooning 
woman is she whose cloak is carried for her by attentive cavaliers, who 
are quick to pick up any fallen object that she may be spared all 

The peril of servilism and dependence lies not only in that "useless 
consuming of life," which leads to helplessness, but in the development 
of individual traits which indicate all too plainly a regrettable 
perversion and degeneration of the normal man. I refer to the 
domineering and tyrannical behaviour with examples of which we are all 
only too familiar. The domineering habit develops side by side with 
helplessness. It is the outward sign of the state of feeling of him who 
conquers through the work of others. Thus it often happens that the 
master is a tyrant toward his servant. It is the spirit of the 
task-master toward the slave. 

Let us picture to ourselves a clever and proficient workman, capable, 
not only of producing much and perfect work, but of giving advice in his 
workshop, because of his ability to control and direct the general 
activity of the environment in which he works. The man who is thus 
master of his environment will be able to smile before the anger of 
others, showing that great mastery of himself which comes from 
consciousness of his ability to do things. We should not, however, be in 
the least surprised to know that in his home this capable workman 
scolded his wife if the soup was not to his taste, or not ready at the 
appointed time. In his home, he is no longer the capable workman; the 
skilled workman here is the wife, who serves him and prepares his food 
for him. He is a serene and pleasant man where he is powerful through 
being efficient, but is domineering where he is served. Perhaps if he 
should learn how to prepare his soup he might become a perfect man! The 
man who, through his own efforts, is able to perform all the actions 
necessary for his comfort and development in life, conquers himself, and 
in doing so multiplies his abilities and perfects himself as an 

We must make of the future generation, _powerful men_, and by that we 
mean men who are independent and free. 


Once we have accepted and established such principles, the abolition of 
prizes and external forms of punishment will follow naturally. Man, 
disciplined through liberty, begins to desire the true and only prize 
which will never belittle or disappoint him, — the birth of human power 
and liberty within that inner life of his from which his activities must 

In my own experience I have often marvelled to see how true this is. 
During our first months in the "Children's Houses," the teachers had not 
yet learned to put into practice the pedagogical principles of liberty 
and discipline. One of them, especially, busied herself, when I was 
absent, in _remedying_ my ideas by introducing a few of those methods to 
which she had been accustomed. So, one day when I came in unexpectedly, 
I found one of the most intelligent of the children wearing a large 
Greek cross of silver, hung from his neck by a fine piece of white 
ribbon, while another child was seated in an armchair which had been 
conspicuously placed in the middle of the room. 

The first child had been rewarded, the second was being punished. The 
teacher, at least while I was present, did not interfere in any way, 
and the situation remained as I had found it. I held my peace, and 
placed myself where I might observe quietly. 

The child with the cross was moving back and forth, carrying the objects 
with which he had been working, from his table to that of the teacher, 
and bringing others in their place. He was busy and happy. As he went 
back and forth he passed by the armchair of the child who was being 
punished. The silver cross slipped from his neck and fell to the floor, 
and the child in the armchair picked it up, dangled it on its white 
ribbon, looking at it from all sides, and then said to his companion: 
"Do you see what you have dropped?" The child turned and looked at the 
trinket with an air of indifference; his expression seemed to say; 
"Don't interrupt me," his voice replied "I don't care." "Don't you care, 
really?" said the punished one calmly. "Then I will put it on myself." 
And the other replied, "Oh, yes, put it on," in a tone that seemed to 
add, "and leave me in peace!" 

The boy in the armchair carefully arranged the ribbon so that the cross 
lay upon the front of his pink apron where he could admire its 
brightness and its pretty form, then he settled himself more comfortably 
in his little chair and rested his arms with evident pleasure upon the 
arms of the chair. The affair remained thus, and was quite just. The 
dangling cross could satisfy the child who was being punished, but not 
the active child, content and happy with his work. 

One day I took with me on a visit to another of the "Children's Houses" 
a lady who praised the children highly and who, opening a box she had 
brought, showed them a number of shining medals, each tied with a bright 
red ribbon. "The mistress," she said "will put these on the breasts of 
those children who are the cleverest and the best." 

As I was under no obligation to instruct this visitor in my methods, I 
kept silence, and the teacher took the box. At that moment, a most 
intelligent little boy of four, who was seated quietly at one of the 
little tables, wrinkled his forehead in an act of protest and cried out 
over and over again; — "Not to the boys, though, not to the boys!" 

What a revelation! This little fellow already knew that he stood among 
the best and strongest of his class, although no one had ever revealed 
this fact to him, and he did not wish to be offended by this prize. Not 
knowing how to defend his dignity, he invoked the superior quality of 

his masculinity! 

As to punishments, we have many times come in contact with children who 
disturbed the others without paying any attention to our corrections. 
Such children were at once examined by the physician. When the case 
proved to be that of a normal child, we placed one of the little tables 
in a corner of the room, and in this way isolated the child; having him 
sit in a comfortable little armchair, so placed that he might see his 
companions at work, and giving him those games and toys to which he was 
most attracted. This isolation almost always succeeded in calming the 
child; from his position he could see the entire assembly of his 
companions, and the way in which they carried on their work was an 
_object lesson_ much more efficacious than any words of the teacher 
could possibly have been. Little by little, he would come to see the 
advantages of being one of the company working so busily before his 
eyes, and he would really wish to go back and do as the others did. We 
have in this way led back again to discipline all the children who at 
first seemed to rebel against it. The isolated child was always made the 
object of special care, almost as if he were ill. I myself, when I 
entered the room, went first of all directly to him, caressing him, as 
if he were a very little child. Then I turned my attention to the 
others, interesting myself in their work, asking questions about it as 
if they had been little men. I do not know what happened in the soul of 
these children whom we found it necessary to discipline, but certainly 
the conversion was always very complete and lasting. They showed great 
pride in learning how to work and how to conduct themselves, and always 
showed a very tender affection for the teacher and for me. 


From a biological point of view, the concept of _liberty_ in the 
education of the child in his earliest years must be understood as 
demanding those conditions adapted to the most favourable _development_ 
of his entire individuality. So, from the physiological side as well as 
from the mental side, this includes the free development of the brain. 
The educator must be as one inspired by a deep _worship of life_, and 
must, through this reverence, _respect_, while he observes with human 
interest, the _development_ of the child life. Now, child life is not an 
abstraction; _it is the life of individual children_. There exists only 
one real biological manifestation: the _living individuals and toward 
single individuals, one by one observed, education must direct itself. 
By education must be understood the active _help_ given to the normal 
expansion of the life of the child. The child is a body which grows, and 
a soul which develops, — these two forms, physiological and psychic, have 
one eternal font, life itself. We must neither mar nor stifle the 
mysterious powers which lie within these two forms of growth, but we 
must _await from them_ the manifestations which we know will succeed one 

_Environment_ is undoubtedly a _secondary_ factor in the phenomena of 
life; it can modify in that it can help or hinder, but it can never 
_create_. The modern theories of evolution, from Naegeli to De Vries, 
consider throughout the development of the two biological branches, 
animal and vegetable, this interior factor as the essential force in the 
transformation of the species and in the transformation of the 
individual. The origins of the _development_, both in the species and in 
the individual, _lie within_. The child does not grow _because_ he is 
nourished, _because_ he breathes, _because_ he is placed in conditions 
of temperature to which he is adapted; he grows because the potential 
life within him develops, making itself visible; because the fruitful 
germ from which his life has come develops itself according to the 
biological destiny which was fixed for it by heredity. Adolescence does 
not come _because_ the child laughs, or dances, or does gymnastic 
exercises, or is well nourished; but because he has arrived at that 
particular physiological state. Life makes itself manifest, — life 
creates, life gives: — and is in its turn held within certain limits and 
bound by certain laws which are insuperable. The _fixed_ characteristics 

of the species do not change, — they can only vary. 

This concept, so brilliantly set forth by De Vries in his Mutation 
Theory, illustrates also the limits of education. We can act on the 
_variations_ which are in relation to the environment, and whose limits 
vary slightly in the species and in the individual, but we cannot act 
upon the _mutations_. The mutations are bound by some mysterious tie to 
the very font of life itself, and their power rises superior to the 
modifying elements of the environment. 

A species, for example, cannot _mutate_ or change into another species 
through any phenomenon of _adaptation_, as, on the other hand, a great 
human genius cannot be suffocated by any limitation, nor by any false 
form of education. 

The _environment_ acts more strongly upon the individual life the less 
fixed and strong this individual life may be. But environment can act in 
two opposite senses, favouring life, and stifling it. Many species of 
palm, for example, are splendid in the tropical regions, because the 
climatic conditions are favourable to their development, but many 
species of both animals and plants have become extinct in regions to 
which they were not able to adapt themselves. 

Life is a superb goddess, always advancing, overthrowing the obstacles 
which environment places in the way of her triumph. This is the basic 
or fundamental truth, — whether it be a question of species or of 
individuals, there persists always the forward march of those victorious 
ones in whom this mysterious life-force is strong and vital. 

It is evident that in the case of humanity, and especially in the case 
of our civil humanity, which we call society, the important and 
imperative question is that of the _care_, or perhaps we might say, the 
_culture_ of human life. 



"Let all thy words be counted." 

_Dante, Inf., canto_ X. 

Given the fact that, through the rEgime of liberty the pupils can 
manifest their natural tendencies in the school, and that with this in 
view we have prepared the environment and the materials (the objects 
with which the child is to work), the teacher must not limit her action 
to _observation_, but must proceed to _experiment_. 

In this method the lesson corresponds to an _experiment_. The more fully 
the teacher is acquainted with the methods of experimental psychology, 
the better will she understand how to give the lesson. Indeed, a special 
technique is necessary if the method is to be properly applied. The 
teacher must at least have attended the training classes in the 
"Children's Houses," in order to acquire a knowledge of the fundamental 
principles of the method and to understand their application. The most 
difficult portion of this training is that which refers to the method 
for discipline. 

In the first days of the school the children do not learn the idea of 
collective order; this idea follows and comes as a result of those 
disciplinary exercises through which the child learns to discern between 
good and evil. This being the case, it is evident that, at the outset 
the teacher _cannot give_ collective lessons. Such lessons, indeed, will 
always be _very rare_, since the children being free are not obliged to 
remain in their places quiet and ready to listen to the teacher, or to 

watch what she is doing. The collective lessons, in fact, are of very 
secondary importance, and have been almost abolished by us. 


The lessons, then, are individual, and _brevity_ must be one of their 
chief characteristics. Dante gives excellent advice to teachers when he 
says, "Let thy words be counted." The more carefully we cut away useless 
words, the more perfect will become the lesson. And in preparing the 
lessons which she is to give, the teacher must pay special attention to 
this point, counting and weighing the value of the words which she is to 

Another characteristic quality of the lesson in the "Children's Houses" 
is its _simplicity_. It must be stripped of all that is not absolute 
truth. That the teacher must not lose herself in vain words, is included 
in the first quality of conciseness; this second, then, is closely 
related to the first: that is, the carefully chosen words must be the 
most simple it is possible to find, and must refer to the truth. 

The third quality of the lesson is its _objectivity_. The lesson must be 
presented in such a way that the personality of the teacher shall 
disappear. There shall remain in evidence only the _object_ to which she 
wishes to call the attention of the child. This brief and simple lesson 
must be considered by the teacher as an explanation of the object and of 
the use which the child can make of it. 

In the giving of such lessons the fundamental guide must be the _method 
of observation_, in which is included and understood the liberty of the 
child. So the teacher shall _observe_ whether the child interests 
himself in the object, how he is interested in it, for how long, etc., 
even noticing the expression of his face. And she must take great care 
not to offend the principles of liberty. For, if she provokes the child 
to make an unnatural effort, she will no longer know what is the 
_spontaneous_ activity of the child. If, therefore, the lesson 
rigorously prepared in this brevity, simplicity and truth is not 
understood by the child, is not accepted by him as an explanation of the 
object, — the teacher must be warned of two things: — first, not to 
_insist_ by repeating the lesson; and second, _not to make the child 
feel that he has made a mistake_, or that he is not understood, because 
in doing so she will cause him to make an effort to understand, and will 
thus alter the natural state which must be used by her in making her 
psychological observation. A few examples may serve to illustrate this 

Let us suppose, for example, that the teacher wishes to teach to a child 
the two colours, red and blue. She desires to attract the attention of 
the child to the object. She says, therefore, "Look at this." Then, in 
order to teach the colours, she says, showing him the red, "This is 
_red_," raising her voice a little and pronouncing the word "red" slowly 
and clearly; then showing him the other colour, "This is _blue_." In 
order to make sure that the child has understood, she says to him, "Give 
me the red," — "Give me the blue." Let us suppose that the child in 
following this last direction makes a mistake. The teacher does not 
repeat and does not insist; she smiles, gives the child a friendly 
caress and takes away the colours. 

Teachers ordinarily are greatly surprised at such simplicity. They often 
say, "But everybody knows how to do that!" Indeed, this again is a 
little like the egg of Christopher Columbus, but the truth is that not 
everyone knows how to do this simple thing (to give a lesson with such 
simplicity). To _measure_ one's own activity, to make it conform to 
these standards of clearness, brevity and truth, is practically a very 
difficult matter. Especially is this true of teachers prepared by the 
old-time methods, who have learned to labour to deluge the child with 
useless, and often, false words. For example, a teacher who had taught 

in the public schools often reverted to collectivity. Now in giving a 
collective lesson much importance is necessarily given to the simple 
thing which is to be taught, and it is necessary to oblige all the 
children to follow the teacher's explanation, when perhaps not all of 
them are disposed to give their attention to the particular lesson in 
hand. The teacher has perhaps commenced her lesson in this 
way: — "Children, see if you can guess what I have in my hand!" She knows 
that the children cannot guess, and she therefore attracts their 
attention by means of a falsehood. Then she probably says, — "Children, 
look out at the sky. Have you ever looked at it before? Have you never 
noticed it at night when it is all shining with stars? No! Look at my 
apron. Do you know what colour it is? Doesn't it seem to you the same 
colour as the sky? Very well then, look at this colour I have in my 
hand. It is the same colour as the sky and my apron. It is _blue_. Now 
look around you a little and see if you can find something in the room 
which is blue. And do you know what colour cherries are, and the colour 
of the burning coals in the fireplace, etc., etc." 

Now in the mind of the child after he has made the useless effort of 
trying to guess there revolves a confused mass of ideas, — the sky, the 
apron, the cherries, etc. It will be difficult for him to extract from 
all this confusion the idea which it was the scope of the lesson to 
make clear to him; namely, the recognition of the two colours, blue and 
red. Such a work of selection is almost impossible for the mind of a 
child who is not yet able to follow a long discourse. 

I remember being present at an arithmetic lesson where the children were 
being taught that two and three make five. To this end, the teacher made 
use of a counting board having coloured beads strung on its thin wires. 
She arranged, for example, two beads on the top line, then on a lower 
line three, and at the bottom five beads. I do not remember very clearly 
the development of this lesson, but I do know that the teacher found it 
necessary to place beside the two beads on the upper wire a little 
cardboard dancer with a blue skirt, which she christened on the spot the 
name of one of the children in the class, saying, "This is Mariettina." 
And then beside the other three beads she placed a little dancer dressed 
in a different colour, which she called "Gigina." I do not know exactly 
how the teacher arrived at the demonstration of the same, but certainly 
she talked for a long time with these little dancers, moving them about, 
etc. If _I_ remember the dancers more clearly than I do the arithmetic 
process, how must it have been with the children? If by such a method 
they were able to learn that two and three make five, they must have 
made a tremendous mental effort, and the teacher must have found it 
necessary to talk with the little dancers for a long time. 

In another lesson a teacher wished to demonstrate to the children the 
difference between noise and sound. She began by telling a long story to 
the children. Then suddenly someone in league with her knocked noisily 
at the door. The teacher stopped and cried out — "What is it! What's 
happened! What is the matter! Children, do you know what this person at 
the door has done? I can no longer go on with my story, I cannot 
remember it any more. I will have to leave it unfinished. Do you know 
what has happened? Did you hear! Have you understood? That was a noise, 
that is a noise. Oh! I would much rather play with this little baby 
(taking up a mandolin which she had dressed up in a table cover). Yes, 
dear baby, I had rather play with you. Do you see this baby that I am 
holding in my arms?" Several children replied, "It isn't a baby." Others 
said, "It's a mandolin." The teacher went on — "No, no, it is a baby, 
really a baby. I love this little baby. Do you want me to show you that 
it is a baby? Keep very, very quiet then. It seems to me that the baby 
is crying. Or, perhaps it is talking, or perhaps it is going to say papa 
or mamma." Putting her hand under the cover, she touched the strings of 
the mandolin. "There! did you hear the baby cry! Did you hear it call 
out?" The children cried out — "It's a mandolin, you touched the strings, 
you made it play." The teacher then replied, "Be quiet, be quiet, 
children. Listen to what I am going to do." Then she uncovered the 
mandolin and began to play on it, saying, "This is sound." 

To suppose that the child from such a lesson as this shall come to 
understand the difference between noise and sound is ridiculous. The 
child will probably get the impression that the teacher wished to play a 
joke, and that she is rather foolish, because she lost the thread of her 
discourse when she was interrupted by noise, and because she mistook a 
mandolin for a baby. Most certainly, it is the figure of the teacher 
herself that is impressed upon the child's mind through such a lesson, 
and not the object for which the lesson was given. 

To obtain a _simple lesson_ from a teacher who has been prepared 
according to the ordinary methods, is a very difficult task. I remember 
that, after having explained the material fully and in detail, I called 
upon one of my teachers to teach, by means of the geometric insets, the 
difference between a square and a triangle. The task of the teacher was 
simply to fit a square and a triangle of wood into the empty spaces made 
to receive them. She should then have shown the child how to follow with 
his finger the contours of the wooden pieces and of the frames into 
which they fit, saying, meanwhile, "This is a square — this is a 
triangle." The teacher whom I had called upon began by having the child 
touch the square, saying, "This is a line, — another, — another, — and 
another. There are four lines: count them with your little finger and 
tell me how many there are. And the corners, — count the corners, feel 
them with your little finger. See, there are four corners too. Look at 
this piece well. It is a square." I corrected the teacher, telling her 
that in this way she was not teaching the child to recognise a form, but 
was giving him an idea of sides, of angles, of number, and that this was 
a very different thing from that which she was to teach in this lesson. 
"But," she said, trying to justify herself, "it is the same thing." It 
is not, however, the same thing. It is the geometric analysis and the 
mathematics of the thing. It would be possible to have an idea of the 
form of the quadrilateral without knowing how to count to four, and, 
therefore, without appreciating the number of sides and angles. The 
sides and the angles are abstractions which in themselves do not exist; 
that which does exist is this piece of wood of a determined form. The 
elaborate explanations of the teacher not only confused the child's 
mind, but bridged over the distance that lies between the concrete and 
the abstract, between the form of an object and the mathematics of the 

Let as suppose, I said to the teacher, that an architect shows you a 
dome, the form of which interests you. He can follow one of two methods 
in showing you his work: he can call attention to the beauty of line, 
the harmony of the proportions, and may then take you inside the 
building and up into the cupola itself, in order that you may appreciate 
the relative proportion of the parts in such a way that your impression 
of the cupola as a whole shall be founded on general knowledge of its 
parts, or he can have you count the windows, the wide or narrow 
cornices, and can, in fact, make you a design showing the construction; 
he can illustrate for you the static laws and write out the algebraic 
formulE necessary in the calculation of such laws. In the first place, 
you will be able to retain in your mind the form of the cupola; in the 
second, you will have understood nothing, and will come away with the 
impression that the architect fancied himself speaking to a fellow 
engineer, instead of to a traveller whose object was to become familiar 
with the beautiful things about him. Very much the same thing happens if 
we, instead of saying to the child, "This is a square," and by simply 
having him touch the contour establish materially the idea of the form, 
proceed rather to a geometrical analysis of the contour. 

Indeed, we should feel that we are making the child precocious if we 
taught him the geometric forms in the plane, presenting at the same time 
the mathematical concept, but we do not believe that the child is too 
immature to appreciate the simple _form_; on the contrary, it is no 
effort for a child to look at a square window or table, — he sees all 
these forms about him in his daily life. To call his attention to a 
determined form is to clarify the impression he has already received of 
it, and to fix the idea of it. It is very much as if, while we are 
looking absent-mindedly at the shore of a lake, an artist should 

suddenly say to us — "How beautiful the curve is that the shore makes 
there under the shade of that cliff." At his words, the view which we 
have been observing almost unconsciously, is impressed upon our minds as 
if it had been illuminated by a sudden ray of sunshine, and we 
experience the joy of having crystallised an impression which we had 
before only imperfectly felt. 

And such is our duty toward the child: to give a ray of light and to go 
on our way. 

I may liken the effects of these first lessons to the impressions of one 
who walks quietly, happily, through a wood, alone, and thoughtful, 
letting his inner life unfold freely. Suddenly, the chime of a distant 
bell recalls him to himself, and in that awakening he feels more 
strongly than before the peace and beauty of which he has been but dimly 

To stimulate life, — leaving it then free to develop, to unfold, — herein 
lies the first task of the educator. In such a delicate task, a great 
art must suggest the moment, and limit the intervention, in order that 
we shall arouse no perturbation, cause no deviation, but rather that we 
shall help the soul which is coming into the fulness of life, and which 
shall live from its _own forces_. This _art_ must accompany the 
_scientific method_. 

When the teacher shall have touched, in this way, soul for soul, each 
one of her pupils, awakening and inspiring the life within them as if 
she were an invisible spirit, she will then possess each soul, and a 
sign, a single word from her shall suffice; for each one will feel her 
in a living and vital way, will recognise her and will listen to her. 
There will come a day when the directress herself shall be filled with 
wonder to see that all the children obey her with gentleness and 
affection, not only ready, but intent, at a sign from her. They will 
look toward her who has made them live, and will hope and desire to 
receive from her, new life. 

Experience has revealed all this, and it is something which forms the 
chief source of wonder for those who visit the "Children's Houses." 
Collective discipline is obtained as if by magic force. Fifty or sixty 
children from two and a half years to six years of age, all together, 
and at a single time know how to hold their peace so perfectly that the 
absolute silence seems that of a desert. And, if the teacher, speaking 
in a low voice, says to the children, "Rise, pass several times around 
the room on the tips of your toes and then come back to your place in 
silence" all together, as a single person, the children rise, and follow 
the order with the least possible noise. The teacher with that one voice 
has spoken to each one; and each child hopes from her intervention to 
receive some light and inner happiness. And feeling so, he goes forth 
intent and obedient like an anxious explorer, following the order in his 
own way. 

In this matter of discipline we have again something of the egg of 
Christopher Columbus. A concert-master must prepare his scholars one by 
one in order to draw from their collective work great and beautiful 
harmony; and each artist must perfect himself as an individual before he 
can be ready to follow the voiceless commands of the master's baton. 

How different is the method which we follow in the public schools! It is 
as if a concert-master taught the same monotonous and sometimes 
discordant rhythm contemporaneously to the most diverse instruments and 

Thus we find that the most disciplined members of society are the men 
who are best trained, who have most thoroughly perfected themselves, but 
this is the training or the perfection acquired through contact with 
other people. The perfection of the collectivity cannot be that material 
and brutal solidarity which comes from mechanical organisation alone. 

In regard to infant psychology, we are more richly endowed with 
prejudices than with actual knowledge bearing upon the subject. We have, 
until the present day, wished to dominate the child through force, by 
the imposition of external laws, instead of making an interior conquest 
of the child, in order to direct him as a human soul. In this way, the 
children have lived beside us without being able to make us know them. 
But if we cut away the artificiality with which we have enwrapped them, 
and the violence through which we have foolishly thought to discipline 
them, they will reveal themselves to us in all the truth of child 

Their gentleness is so absolute, so sweet, that we recognise in it the 
infancy of that humility which can remain oppressed by every form of 
yoke, by every injustice; and child love and _knowledge_ is such that it 
surpasses every other love and makes us think that in very truth 
humanity must carry within it that passion which pushes the minds of men 
to the successive conquest of thought, making easier from century to 
century the yokes of every form of slavery. 



Opening at Nine O'clock — Closing at Four O'clock 

9- 10. Entrance. Greeting. Inspection as to personal 
cleanliness. Exercises of practical life; helping one another 
to take off and put on the aprons. Going over the room to see 
that everything is dusted and in order. Language: Conversation 
period: Children give an account of the events of the day 
before. Religious exercises. 

10- 11. Intellectual exercises. Objective lessons interrupted 
by short rest periods. Nomenclature, Sense exercises. 

11- 11:30. Simple gymnastics: Ordinary movements done 
gracefully, normal position of the body, walking, marching in 
line, salutations, movements for attention, placing of objects 

11:30-12. Luncheon: Short prayer. 

12- 1. Free games. 

1- 2. Directed games, if possible, in the open air. During this 
period the older children in turn go through with the 
exercises of practical life, cleaning the room, dusting, 
putting the material in order. General inspection for 
cleanliness: Conversation. 

2- 3. Manual work. Clay modelling, design, etc. 

3- 4. Collective gymnastics and songs, if possible in the open 
air. Exercises to develop forethought: Visiting, and caring 
for, the plants and animals. 

As soon as a school is established, the question of schedule arises. 
This must be considered from two points of view; the length of the 
school-day and the distribution of study and of the activities of life. 

I shall begin by affirming that in the "Children's Houses," as in the 

school for deficients, the hours may be very long, occupying the entire 
day. For poor children, and especially for the "Children's Houses" 
annexed to workingmen ' s tenements, I should advise that the school-day 
should be from nine in the morning to five in the evening in winter, and 
from eight to six in summer. These long hours are necessary, if we are 
to follow a directed line of action which shall be helpful to the growth 
of the child. It goes without saying, that in the case of little 
children such a long school-day should be interrupted by at least an 
hour's rest in bed. And here lies the great practical difficulty. At 
present we must allow our little ones to sleep in their seats in a 
wretched position, but I foresee a time, not distant, when we shall be 
able to have a quiet, darkened room where the children may sleep in 
low-swung hammocks. I should like still better to have this nap taken in 
the open air. 

In the "Children's Houses" in Rome we send the little ones to their own 
apartments for the nap, as this can be done without their having to go 
out into the streets. 

It must be observed that these long hours include not only the nap, but 
the luncheon. This must be considered in such schools as the "Children's 
Houses," whose aim is to help and to direct the growth of children in 
such an important period of development as that from three to six years 
of age. 

The "Children's House" is a garden of child culture, and we most 
certainly do not keep the children for so many hours in school with the 
idea of making students of them! 

The first step which we must take in our method is to _call_ to the 
pupil. We call now to his attention, now to his interior life, now to 
the life he leads with others. Making a comparison which must not be 
taken in a literal sense, — it is necessary to proceed as in experimental 
psychology or anthropology when one makes an experiment, — that is, after 
having prepared the instrument (to which in this case the environment 
may correspond) we prepare the subject. Considering the method as a 
whole, we must begin our work by preparing the child for the forms of 
social life, and we must attract his attention to these forms. 

In the schedule which we outlined when we established the first 
"Children's House," but which we have never followed entirely, (a sign 
that a schedule in which the material is distributed in arbitrary 
fashion is not adapted to the rEgime of liberty) we begin the day with a 
series of exercises of practical life, and I must confess that these 
exercises were the only part of the programme which proved thoroughly 
stationary. These exercises were such a success that they formed the 
beginning of the day in all of the "Children's Houses." First: 

Cleanliness . 




As soon as the children arrive at school we make an inspection for 
cleanliness. If possible, this should be carried on in the presence of 
the mothers, but their attention should not be called to it directly. We 
examine the hands, the nails, the neck, the ears, the face, the teeth; 
and care is given to the tidiness of the hair. If any of the garments 
are torn or soiled or ripped, if the buttons are lacking, or if the 
shoes are not clean, we call the attention of the child to this. In this 
way, the children become accustomed to observing themselves and take an 
interest in their own appearance. 

The children in our "Children's Houses" are given a bath in turn, but 
this, of course, can not be done daily. In the class, however, the 
teacher, by using a little washstand with small pitchers and basins, 
teaches the children to take a partial bath: for example, they learn how 
to wash their hands and clean their nails. Indeed, sometimes we teach 

them how to take a foot-bath. They are shown especially how to wash 
their ears and eyes with great care. They are taught to brush their 
teeth and rinse their mouths carefully. In all of this, we call their 
attention to the different parts of the body which they are washing, and 
to the different means which we use in order to cleanse them: clear 
water for the eyes, soap and water for the hands, the brush for the 
teeth, etc. We teach the big ones to help the little ones, and, so, 
encourage the younger children to learn quickly to take care of 

After this care of their persons, we put on the little aprons. The 
children are able to put these on themselves, or, with the help of each 
other. Then we begin our visit about the schoolroom. We notice if all of 
the various materials are in order and if they are clean. The teacher 
shows the children how to clean out the little corners where dust has 
accumulated, and shows them how to use the various objects necessary in 
cleaning a room, — dust-cloths, dust-brushes, little brooms, etc. All of 
this, when the children are allowed _to do it by themselves_, is very 
quickly accomplished. Then the children go each to his own place. The 
teacher explains to them that the normal position is for each child to 
be seated in his own place, in silence, with his feet together on the 
floor, his hands resting on the table, and his head erect. In this way 
she teaches them poise and equilibrium. Then she has them rise on their 
feet in order to sing the hymn, teaching them that in rising and sitting 
down it is not necessary to be noisy. In this way the children learn to 
move about the furniture with poise and with care. After this we have a 
series of exercises in which the children learn to move gracefully, to 
go and come, to salute each other, to lift objects carefully, to receive 
various objects from each other politely. The teacher calls attention 
with little exclamations to a child who is clean, a room which is well 
ordered, a class seated quietly, a graceful movement, etc. 

From such a starting point we proceed to the free teaching. That is, the 
teacher will no longer make comments to the children, directing them how 
to move from their seats, etc., she will limit herself to correcting the 
disordered movements. 

After the directress has talked in this way about the attitude of the 
children and the arrangement of the room, she invites the children to 
talk with her. She questions them concerning what they have done the day 
before, regulating her inquiries in such a way that the children need 
not report the intimate happenings of the family but their individual 
behaviour, their games, attitude to parents, etc. She will ask if they 
have been able to go up the stairs without getting them muddy, if they 
have spoken politely to their friends who passed, if they have helped 
their mothers, if they have shown in their family what they have learned 
at school, if they have played in the street, etc. The conversations are 
longer on Monday after the vacation, and on that day the children are 
invited to tell what they have done with the family; if they have gone 
away from home, whether they have eaten things not usual for children to 
eat, and if this is the case we urge them not to eat these things and 
try to teach them that they are bad for them. Such conversations as 
these encourage the _unfolding_ or development of language and are of 
great educational value, since the directress can prevent the children 
from recounting happenings in the house or in the neighbourhood, and can 
select, instead, topics which are adapted to pleasant conversation, and 
in this way can teach the children those things which it is desirable to 
talk about; that is, things with which we occupy ourselves in life, 
public events, or things which have happened in the different houses, 
perhaps, to the children themselves — as baptism, birthday parties, any 
of which may serve for occasional conversation. Things of this sort will 
encourage children to describe, themselves. After this morning talk we 
pass to the various lessons. 



In connection with the exercises of practical life, it may be fitting 
to consider the matter of refection. 

In order to protect the child's development, especially in 
neighbourhoods where standards of child hygiene are not yet prevalent in 
the home, it would be well if a large part at least of the child's diet 
could be entrusted to the school. It is well known to-day that the diet 
must be adapted to the physical nature of the child; and as the medicine 
of children is not the medicine of adults in reduced doses, so the diet 
must not be that of the adult in lesser quantitative proportions. For 
this reason I should prefer that even in the "Children's Houses" which 
are situated in tenements and from which little ones, being at home, can 
go up to eat with the family, school refection should be instituted. 
Moreover, even in the case of rich children, school refection would 
always be advisable until a scientific course in cooking shall have 
introduced into the wealthier families the habit of specialising in 
children's food. 

The diet of little children must be rich in fats and sugar: the first 
for reserve matter and the second for plastic tissue. In fact, sugar is 
a stimulant to tissues in the process of formation. 

As for the _form_ of preparation, it is well that the alimentary 
substances should always be minced, because the child has not yet the 
capacity for completely masticating the food, and his stomach is still 
incapable of fulfilling the function of mincing food matter. 

Consequently, soups, purEes, and meat balls, should constitute the 
ordinary form of dish for the child's table. 

The nitrogenous diet for a child from two or three years of age ought to 
be constituted chiefly of milk and eggs, but after the second year 
broths are also to be recommended. After three years and a half meat can 
be given; or, in the case of poor children, vegetables. Fruits are also 
to be recommended for children. 

Perhaps a detailed summary on child diet may be useful, especially for 
mothers . 

_Method of Preparing Broth for Little Children. _ (Age three to six; 
after that the child may use the common broth of the family.) The 
quantity of meat should correspond to 1 gramme for every cubic 
centimetre of broth and should be put in cold water. No aromatic herbs 
should be used, the only wholesome condiment being salt. The meat should 
be left to boil for two hours. Instead of removing the grease from the 
broth it is well to add butter to it, or, in the case of the poor, a 
spoonful of olive oil; but substitutes for butter, such as margerine, 
etc., should never be used. The broth must be prepared _fresh_; it would 
be well, therefore, to put the meat on the fire two hours before the 
meal, because as soon as broth is cool there begins to take place a 
separation of chemical substances, which are injurious to the child and 
may easily cause diarrhea. 

_Soups._ A very simple soup, and one to be highly recommended for 
children, is bread boiled in salt water or in broth and abundantly 
seasoned with oil. This is the classic soup of poor children and an 
excellent means of nutrition. Very like this, is the soup which 
consists of little cubes of bread toasted in butter and allowed to soak 
in the broth which is itself fat with butter. Soups of grated bread also 
belong in this class. 

Pastine, [10] especially the glutinous pastine, which are of the same 
nature, are undoubtedly superior to the others for digestibility, but 
are accessible only to the privileged social classes. 

[10] Those very fine forms of vermicelli used in soups. 

The poor should know how much more wholesome is a broth made from 
remnants of stale bread, than soups of coarse spaghetti — often dry and 
seasoned with meat juice. Such soups are most indigestible for little 

Excellent soups are those consisting of purEes of vegetables (beans, 
peas, lentils). To-day one may find in the shops dried vegetables 
especially adapted for this sort of soups. Boiled in salt water, the 
vegetables are peeled, put to cool and passed through a sieve (or simply 
compressed, if they are already peeled). Butter is then added, and the 
paste is stirred slowly into the boiling water, care being taken that it 
dissolves and leaves no lumps. 

Vegetable soups can also be seasoned with pork. Instead of broth, 
sugared milk may be the base of vegetable purEes. 

I strongly recommend for children a soup of rice boiled in broth or 
milk; also cornmeal broth, provided it be seasoned with abundant butter, 
but not with cheese. (The porridge form — polenta, really cornmeal mush, 
is to be highly recommended on account of the long cooking.) 

The poorer classes who have no meat-broth can feed their children 
equally well with soups of boiled bread and porridge seasoned with oil. 

_Milk and Eggs._ These are foods which not only contain nitrogenous 
substances in an eminently digestible form, but they have the so-called 
_enzymes_ which facilitate assimilation into the tissues, and, hence, in 
a particular way, favour the growth of the child. And they answer so 
much the better this last most important condition if they are _fresh_ 
and _intact_, keeping in themselves, one may say, the life of the 
animals which produced them. 

Milk fresh from the cow, and the egg while it is still warm, are 
assimilable to the highest degree. Cooking, on the other hand, makes the 
milk and eggs lose their special conditions of assimilability and 
reduces the nutritive power in them to the simple power of any 
nitrogenous substance. 

To-day, consequently, there are being founded _special dairies for 
children_ where the milk produced is sterile; the rigorous cleanliness 
of the surroundings in which the milk-producing animals live, the 
sterilisation of the udder before milking, of the hands of the milker, 
and of the vessels which are to contain the milk, the hermetic sealing 
of these last, and the refrigerating bath immediately after the milking, 
if the milk is to be carried far, — otherwise it is well to drink it 
warm, procure a milk free from bacteria which, therefore, has no need of 
being sterilised by boiling, and which preserves intact its natural 
nutritive powers. 

As much may be said of eggs; the best way of feeding them to a child is 
to take them still warm from the hen and have him eat them just as they 
are, and then digest them in the open air. But where this is not 
practicable, eggs must be chosen fresh, and barely heated in water, 
that is to say, prepared _% la coque_. 

All other forms of preparation, milk-soup, omelettes, and so forth, do, 
to be sure, make of milk and eggs an excellent food, more to be 
recommended than others; but they take away the specific properties of 
assimilation which characterise them. 

_Meat._ All meats are not adapted to children, and even their 
preparation must differ according to the age of the child. Thus, for 
example, children from three to five years of age ought to eat only more 
or less finely-ground meats, whereas at the age of five children are 
capable of grinding meat completely by mastication; at that time it is 

well to _teach the child accurately how to masticate_ because he has a 
tendency to swallow food quickly, which may produce indigestion and 

This is another reason why school-refection in the "Children's Houses" 
would be a very serviceable as well as convenient institution, as the 
whole diet of the child could then be rationally cared for in connection 
with the educative system of the Houses. 

The meats most adapted to children are so-called white meats, that is, 
in the first place, chicken, then veal; also the light flesh of fish, 
(sole, pike, cod). 

After the age of four, filet of beef may also be introduced into the 
diet, but never heavy and fat meats like that of the pig, the capon, the 
eel, the tunny, etc., which are to be _absolutely excluded_ along with 
mollusks and crustaceans, (oysters, lobsters), from the child's diet. 

Croquettes made of finely ground meat, grated bread, milk, and beaten 
eggs, and fried in butter, are the most wholesome preparation. Another 
excellent preparation is to mould into balls the grated meat, with 
sweet fruit-preserve, and eggs beaten up with sugar. 

At the age of five, the child may be given breast of roast fowl, and 
occasionally veal cutlet or filet of beef. 

Boiled meat must never be given to the child, because meat is deprived 
of many stimulating and even nutritive properties by boiling and 
rendered less digestible. 

_Nerve Feeding Substances. _ Besides meat a child who has reached the age 
of four may be given fried brains and sweetbreads, to be combined, for 
example, with chicken croquettes. 

_Milk Foods. _ All cheeses are to be excluded from the child's diet. 

The only milk product suitable to children from three to six years of 
age is fresh butter. 

_Custard._ Custard is also to be recommended provided it be _freshly 
prepared_, that is immediately before being eaten, and _with very fresh_ 
milk and eggs: if such conditions cannot be rigorously fulfilled, it is 
preferable to do without custard, which is not a necessity. 

_Bread._ From what we have said about soups, it may be inferred that 
bread is an _excellent food_ for the child. It should be well selected; 
the crumb is not very digestible, but it can be utilised, when it is 
dry, to make a bread broth; but if one is to give the child simply a 
piece of bread to eat, it is well to offer him the crust, the end of the 
loaf. Bread sticks are excellent for those who can afford them. 

Bread contains many nitrogenous substances and is very rich in starches, 
but is lacking in fats; and as the fundamental substances of diet are, 
as is well known, three in number, namely, proteids, (nitrogenous 
substances), starches, and fats, bread is not a complete food; it is 
necessary therefore to offer the child buttered bread, which constitutes 
a complete food and may be considered as a sufficient and complete 
breakfast . 

_Green Vegetables. _ Children must never eat raw vegetables, such as 
salads and greens, but only cooked ones; indeed they are not to be 
highly recommended either cooked or raw, with the exception of spinach 
which may enter with moderation into the diet of children. 

Potatoes prepared in a purEe with much butter form, however, an 
excellent complement of nutrition for children. 

_Fruits._ Among fruits there are excellent foods for children. They too, 

like milk and eggs, if freshly gathered, retain a _living_ quality which 
aids assimilation. 

As this condition, however, is not easily attainable in cities, it is 
necessary to consider also the diet of fruits which are not perfectly 
fresh and which, therefore, should be prepared and cooked in various 
ways. All fruits are not to be advised for children; the chief 
properties to be considered are the degree of _ripeness_, the 
_tenderness_ and _sweetness_ of the pulp, and its _acidity_. Peaches, 
apricots, grapes, currants, oranges, and mandarins, in their natural 
state, can be given to little children with great advantage. Other 
fruits, such as pears, apples, plums, should be cooked or prepared in 

Figs, pineapples, dates, melons, cherries, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, 
and chestnuts, are excluded for various reasons from the diet of early 

The preparation of fruit must consist in removing from it all 
indigestible parts, such as the peel, and also such parts as the child 
inadvertently may absorb to his detriment, as, for example, the seed. 

Children of four or five should be taught early how carefully the seeds 
must be thrown away and how the fruits are peeled. Afterwards, the child 
so educated may be promoted to the honour of receiving a fine fruit 
intact, and he will know how to eat it properly. 

The culinary preparation of fruits consists essentially in two 
processes: cooking, and seasoning with sugar. 

Besides simple cooking, fruits may be prepared as marmalades and 
jellies, which are excellent but are naturally within the reach of the 
wealthier classes only. While jellies and marmalades may be allowed, 
candied fruits, — on the other hand, — jnarrons glacEs_, and the like, are 
absolutely excluded from the child's diet. 

_Seasonings._ An important phase of the hygiene of child diet concerns 
seasonings — with a view to their rigorous limitation. As I have already 
indicated, sugar and some fat substances along with kitchen salt (sodium 
chloride) should constitute the principal part of the seasonings. 

To these may be added _organic acids_ (acetic acid, citric acid) that 
is, vinegar and lemon juice; this latter can be advantageously used on 
fish, on croquettes, on spinach, etc. 

Other condiments suitable to little children are some aromatic 
vegetables like garlic and rue which disinfect the intestines and the 
lungs, and also have a direct anthelminthic action. 

Spices, on the other hand, such as pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and 
especially mustard, are to be absolutely abolished. 

_Drinks._ The growing organism of the child is very rich in water, and, 
hence, needs a constant supply of moisture. Among the beverages, the 
best, and indeed the only one, to be unreservedly advised is pure fresh 
spring water. To rich children might be allowed the so-called table 
waters which are slightly alkaline, such as those of San Gemini, Acqua 
Claudia, etc., mixed with syrups, as, for example, syrup of black 

It is now a matter of general knowledge that all fermented beverages, 
and those exciting to the nervous system, are injurious to children; 
hence, all alcoholic and caffeic beverages are absolutely eliminated 
from child diet. Not only liquors, but wine and beer, ought to be 
unknown to the child's taste, and coffee and tea should be inaccessible 
to childhood. 

The deleterious action of alcohol on the child organism needs no 

illustration, but in a matter of such vital importance insistent 
repetition is never superfluous. Alcohol is a poison especially fatal to 
organisms in the process of formation. Not only does it arrest their 
total development (whence infantilism, idiocy), but also predisposes the 
child to nervous maladies (epilepsy, meningitis), and to maladies of the 
digestive organs, and metabolism (cirrhosis of the liver, dyspepsia, 
anEmia) . 

If the "Children's Houses" were to succeed in enlightening the people on 
such truths, they would be accomplishing a very lofty hygienic work for 
the new generations. 

Instead of coffee, children may be given roasted and boiled barley, 
malt, and especially chocolate which is an excellent child food, 
particularly when mixed with milk. 


Another chapter of child diet concerns the distribution of the meals. 
Here, one principle must dominate, and must be diffused, among mothers, 
namely, that the children shall be kept to rigorous meal hours in order 
that they may enjoy good health and have excellent digestion. It is 
true that there prevails among the people (and it is one of the forms of 
maternal ignorance most fatal to children) the prejudice that children 
in order to grow well must be eating almost continuously, without 
regularity, nibbling almost habitually a crust of bread. On the 
contrary, the child, in view of the special delicacy of his digestive 
system, has more need of regular meals than the adult has. It seems to 
me that the "Children's Houses" with very prolonged programmes are, for 
this reason, suitable places for child culture, as they can direct the 
child's diet. _0utside of their regular meal hours, children should not 

In a "Children's House" with a long programme there ought to be two 
meals, a hearty one about noon, and a light one about four in the 

At the hearty meal, there should be soup, a meat dish, and bread, and, 
in the case of rich children, also fruits or custard, and butter on the 

At the four o'clock meal there should be prepared a light lunch, which 
from a simple piece of bread can range to buttered bread, and to bread 
accompanied by a fruit marmalade, chocolate, honey, custard, etc. Crisp 
crackers, biscuits, and cooked fruits, etc., might also be usefully 
employed. Very suitably the lunch might consist of bread soaked in milk 
or an egg _t- la coque_ with bread sticks, or else of a simple cup of 
milk in which is dissolved a spoonful of Mellin's Food. I recommend 
Mellin's Food very highly, not only in infancy, but also much later on 
account of its properties of digestibility and nutrition, and on account 
of its flavour, which is so pleasing to children. 

Mellin's Food is a powder prepared from barley and wheat, and containing 
in a concentrated and pure state the nutritive substances proper to 
those cereals; the powder is slowly dissolved in hot water in the bottom 
of the same cup which is to be used for drinking the mixture, and very 
fresh milk is then poured on top. 

The child would take the other two meals in his own home, that is, the 
morning breakfast and the supper, which latter must be _very light_ for 
children so that shortly after they may be ready to go to bed. On these 
meals it would be well to give advice to mothers, urging them to help 
complete the hygienic work of the "Children's Houses," to the profit of 
their children. 

The morning breakfast for the rich might be milk and chocolate, or milk 
and extract of malt, with crackers, or, better, with toasted bread 

spread with butter or honey; for the poor, a cup of fresh milk, with 

For the evening meal, a soup is to be advised (children should eat soups 
twice a day), and an egg _% la coque_ or a cup of milk; or rice soup 
with a base of milk, and buttered bread, with cooked fruits, etc. 

As for the alimentary rations to be calculated, I refer the reader to 
the special treatises on hygiene: although practically such calculations 
are of no great utility. 

In the "Children's Houses," especially in the case of the poor, I should 
make extensive use of the vegetable soups and I should have cultivated 
in the garden plots vegetables which can be used in the diet, in order 
to have them plucked in their freshness, cooked, and enjoyed. I should 
try, possibly, to do the same for the fruits, and, by the raising of 
animals, to have fresh eggs and pure milk. The milking of the goats 
could be done directly by the larger children, after they had 
scrupulously washed their hands. Another important educative 
application which school-refection in the "Children's Houses" has to 
offer, and which concerns "practical life," consists in the preparing of 
the table, arranging the table linen, learning its nomenclature, etc. 
Later, I shall show how this exercise can gradually increase in 
difficulty and constitute a most important didactic instrument. 

It is sufficient to intimate here that it is very important to teach the 
children to eat with cleanliness, both with respect to themselves and 
with respect to their surroundings (not to soil the napkins, etc.), and 
to use the table implements (which, at least, for the little ones, are 
limited to the spoon, and for the larger children extended to the fork 
and knife). 



The generally accepted idea of gymnastics is, I consider, very 
inadequate. In the common schools we are accustomed to describe as 
gymnastics a species of collective muscular discipline which has as its 
aim that children shall learn to follow definite ordered movements given 
in the form of commands. The guiding spirit in such gymnastics is 
coercion, and I feel that such exercises repress spontaneous movements 
and impose others in their place. I do not know what the psychological 
authority for the selection of these imposed movements is. Similar 
movements are used in medical gymnastics in order to restore a normal 
movement to a torpid muscle or to give back a normal movement to a 
paralysed muscle. A number of chest movements which are given in the 
school are advised, for example, in medicine for those who suffer from 
intestinal torpidity, but truly I do not well understand what office 
such exercises can fulfil when they are followed by squadrons of normal 
children. In addition to these formal gymnastics we have those which are 
carried on in a gymnasium, and which are very like the first steps in 
the training of an acrobat. However, this is not the place for criticism 
of the gymnastics used in our common schools. Certainly in our case we 
are not considering such gymnastics. Indeed, many who hear me speak of 
gymnastics for infant schools very plainly show disapprobation and they 
will disapprove more heartily when they hear me speak of a gymnasium for 
little children. Indeed, if the gymnastic exercises and the gymnasium 
were those of the common schools, no one would agree more heartily than 
I in the disapproval expressed by these critics. 

We must understand by _gymnastics_ and in general by muscular education 
a series of exercises tending to _aid_ the normal development of 

physiological movements (such as walking, breathing, speech), to protect 
this development, when the child shows himself backward or abnormal in 
any way, and to encourage in the children those movements which are 
useful in the achievement of the most ordinary acts of life; such as 
dressing, undressing, buttoning their clothes and lacing their shoes, 
carrying such objects as balls, cubes, etc. If there exists an age in 
which it is necessary to protect a child by means of a series of 
gymnastic exercises, between three and six years is undoubtedly the age. 
The special gymnastics necessary, or, better still, hygienic, in this 
period of life, refer chiefly to walking. A child in the general 
morphological growth of his body is characterised by having a torso 
greatly developed in comparison with the lower limbs. In the new-born 
child the length of the torso, from the top of the head to the curve of 
the groin, is equal to 68 per cent of the total length of the body. The 
limbs then are barely 32 per cent of the stature. During growth these 
relative proportions change in a most noticeable way; thus, for example, 
in the adult the torso is fully half of the entire stature and, 
according to the individual, corresponds to 51 or 52 per cent of it. 

This morphological difference between the new-born child and the adult 
is bridged so slowly during growth that in the first years of the 
child's life the torso still remains tremendously developed as compared 
with the limbs. In one year the height of the torso corresponds to 65 
per cent of the total stature, in two years to 63, in three years to 62. 

At the age when a child enters the infant school his limbs are still 
very short as compared with his torso; that is, the length of his limbs 
barely corresponds to 38 per cent of the stature. Between the years of 
six and seven the proportion of the torso to the stature is from 57 to 
56 per cent In such a period therefore the child not only makes a 
noticeable growth in height, (he measures indeed at the age of three 
years about 0.85 metre and at six years 1.05 metres) but, changing so 
greatly the relative proportions between the torso and the limbs, the 
latter make a most decided growth. This growth is related to the layers 
of cartilage which still exist at the extremity of the long bones and is 
related in general to the still incomplete ossification of the entire 
skeleton. The tender bones of the limbs must therefore sustain the 
weight of the torso which is then disproportionately large. We cannot, 
if we consider all these things, judge the manner of walking in little 
children by the standard set for our own equilibrium. If a child is not 
strong, the erect posture and walking are really sources of fatigue for 
him, and the long bones of the lower limbs, yielding to the weight of 
the body, easily become deformed and usually bowed. This is particularly 
the case among the badly nourished children of the poor, or among those 
in whom the skeleton structure, while not actually showing the presence 
of rickets, still seems to be slow in attaining normal ossification. 

We are wrong then if we consider little children from this physical 
point of view as _little men_. They have, instead, characteristics and 
proportions that are entirely special to their age. The tendency of the 
child to stretch out on his back and kick his legs in the air is an 
expression of physical needs related to the proportions of his body. The 
baby loves to walk on all fours just because, like the quadruped 
animals, his limbs are short in comparison with his body. Instead of 
this, we divert these natural manifestations by foolish habits which we 
impose on the child. We hinder him from throwing himself on the earth, 
from stretching, etc., and we oblige him to walk with grown people and 
to keep up with them; and excuse ourselves by saying that we don't want 
him to become capricious and think he can do as he pleases! It is indeed 
a fatal error and one which has made bow-legs common among little 
children. It is well to enlighten the mothers on these important 
particulars of infant hygiene. Now we, with the gymnastics, can, and, 
indeed, should, help the child in his development by making our 
exercises correspond to the movement which he _needs to make_, and in 
this way save his limbs from fatigue. 

One very simple means for helping the child in his activity was 
suggested to me by my observation of the children themselves. The 

teacher was having the children march, leading them about the courtyard 
between the walls of the house and the central garden. This garden was 
protected by a little fence made of strong wires which were stretched in 
parallel lines, and were supported at intervals by wooden palings driven 
into the ground. Along the fence, ran a little ledge on which the 
children were in the habit of sitting down when they were tired of 
marching. In addition to this, I always brought out little chairs, which 
I placed against the wall. Every now and then, the little ones of two 
and one half and three years would drop out from the marching line, 
evidently being tired; but instead of sitting down on the ground or on 
the chairs, they would run to the little fence and catching hold of the 
upper line of wire they would walk along sideways, resting their feet on 
the wire which was nearest the ground. That this gave them a great deal 
of pleasure, was evident from the way in which they laughed as, with 
bright eyes, they watched their larger companions who were marching 
about. The truth was that these little ones had solved one of my 
problems in a very practical way. They moved themselves along on the 
wires, pulling their bodies sideways. In this way, they moved their 
limbs _without throwing upon them the weight of the body_. Such an 
apparatus placed in the gymnasium for little children, will enable them 
to fulfil the need which they feel of throwing themselves on the floor 
and kicking their legs in the air; for the movements they make on the 
little fence correspond even more correctly to the same physical needs. 
Therefore, I advise the manufacture of this little fence for use in 
children's playrooms. It can be constructed of parallel bars supported 
by upright poles firmly fixed on to the heavy base. The children, while 
playing upon this little fence, will be able to look out and see with, 
great pleasure what the other children are doing in the room. 

Other pieces of gymnasium apparatus can be constructed upon the same 
plan, that is, having as their aim the furnishing of the child with a 
proper outlet for his individual activities. One of the things invented 
by SEguin to develop the lower limbs, and especially to strengthen the 
articulation of the knee in weak children, is the trampolino. 

This is a kind of swing, having a very wide seat, so wide, indeed, that 
the limbs of the child stretched out in front of him are entirely 
supported by this broad seat. This little chair is hung from strong 
cords and is left swinging. The wall in front of it is reinforced by a 
strong smooth board against which the children press their feet in 
pushing themselves back and forth in the swing. The child seated in this 
swing exercises his limbs, pressing his feet against the board each time 
that he swings toward the wall. The board against which he swings may be 
erected at some distance from the wall, and may be so low that the child 
can see over the top of it. As he swings in this chair, he strengthens 
his limbs through the species of gymnastics limited to the lower limbs, 
and this he does without resting the weight of his body upon his legs. 
Other pieces of gymnastic apparatus, less important from the hygienic 
standpoint, but very amusing to the children, may be described briefly. 
"The Pendulum," a game which may be played by one child or by several, 
consists of rubber balls hung on a cord. The children seated in their 
little armchairs strike the ball, sending it from one to another. It is 
an exercise for the arms and for the spinal column, and is at the same 
time an exercise in which the eye gauges the distance of bodies in 
motion. Another game, called "The Cord," consists of a line, drawn on 
the earth with chalk, along which the children walk. This helps to order 
and to direct their free movements in a given direction. A game like 
this is very pretty, indeed, after a snowfall, when the little path made 
by the children shows the regularity of the line they have traced, and 
encourages a pleasant war among them in which each one tries to make his 
line in the snow the most regular. 

The little round stair is another game, in which a little wooden 
stairway, built on the plan of the spiral, is used. This little stair is 
enclosed on one side by a balustrade on which the children can rest 
their hands. The other side is open and circular. This serves to 
habituate the children to climbing and descending stairs without holding 
on to the balustrade, and teaches them to move up and down with 

movements that are poised and self-controlled. The steps must be very 
low and very shallow. Going up and down on this little stair, the very 
smallest children can learn movements which they cannot follow properly 
in climbing ordinary stairways in their homes, in which the proportions 
are arranged for adults. 

Another piece of gymnasium apparatus, adapted for the broad-jump, 
consists of a low wooden platform painted with various lines, by means 
of which the distance jumped may be gauged. There is a small flight of 
stairs which may be used in connection with this plane, making it 
possible to practise and to measure the high-jump. 

I also believe that rope-ladders may be so adapted as to be suitable for 
use in schools for little children. Used in pairs, these would, it seems 
to me, help to perfect a great variety of movements, such as kneeling, 
rising, bending forward and backward, etc.; movements which the child, 
without the help of the ladder, could not make without losing his 
equilibrium. All of these movements are useful in that they help the 
child to acquire, first, equilibrium, then that co-ordination of the 
muscular movements necessary to him. They are, moreover, helpful in that 
they increase the chest expansion. Besides all this, such movements as I 
have described, reinforce the _hand_ in its most primitive and essential 
action, _prehension_; — the movement which necessarily precedes all the 
finer movements of the hand itself. Such apparatus was successfully 
used by SEguin to develop the general strength and the movement of 
prehension in his idiotic children. 

The gymnasium, therefore, offers a field for the most varied exercises, 
tending to establish the co-ordination of the movements common in life, 
such as walking, throwing objects, going up and down stairs, kneeling, 
rising, jumping, etc. 


By free gymnastics I mean those which are given without any apparatus. 
Such gymnastics are divided into two classes: directed and required 
exercises, and free games. In the first class, I recommend the march, 
the object of which should be not rhythm, but poise only. When the march 
is introduced, it is well to accompany it with the singing of little 
songs, because this furnishes a breathing exercise very helpful in 
strengthening the lungs. Besides the march, many of the games of Froebel 
which are accompanied by songs, very similar to those which the children 
constantly play among themselves, may be used. In the free games, we 
furnish the children with balls, hoops, bean bags and kites. The trees 
readily offer themselves to the game of "Pussy wants a corner," and many 
simple games of tag. 


are among the earliest exercises.] 


Under the name of educational gymnastics, we include two series of 
exercises which really form a part of other school work, as, for 
instance, the cultivation of the earth, the care of plants and animals 
(watering and pruning the plants, carrying the grain to the chickens, 
etc.). These activities call for various co-ordinated movements, as, 
for example, in hoeing, in getting down to plant things, and in 
rising; the trips which children make in carrying objects to some 
definite place, and in making a definite practical use of these objects, 
offer a field for very valuable gymnastic exercises. The scattering of 
minute objects, such as corn and oats, is valuable, and also the 
exercise of opening and closing the gates to the garden and to the 

chicken yard. All of these exercises are the more valuable in that they 
are carried on in the open air. Among our educational gymnastics we have 
exercises to develop co-ordinated movements of the fingers, and these 
prepare the children for the exercises of practical life, such as 
dressing and undressing themselves. The didactic material which forms 
the basis of these last named gymnastics is very simple, consisting of 
wooden frames, each mounted with two pieces of cloth, or leather, to be 
fastened and unfastened by means of the buttons and buttonholes, hooks 
and eyes, eyelets and lacings, or automatic fastenings. 

In our "Children's Houses" we use ten of these frames, so constructed 
that each one of them illustrates a different process in dressing or 

One: mounted with heavy pieces of wool which are to be fastened by means 
of large bone buttons — corresponds to children's dresses. 

Two: mounted with pieces of linen to be fastened with pearl 
buttons — corresponds to a child's underwear. 

Three: leather pieces mounted with shoe buttons — in fastening these 
leather pieces the children make use of the button-hook — corresponds to 
a child's shoes. 

Four: pieces of leather which are laced together by means of eyelets and 
shoe laces. 

Five: two pieces of cloth to be laced together. (These pieces are boned 
and therefore correspond to the little bodices worn by the peasants in 

Six: two pieces of stuff to be fastened by means of large hooks and 

Seven: two pieces of linen, to be fastened by means of small hooks and 
worked eyelets. 

Eight: two pieces of cloth to be fastened by means of broad coloured 
ribbon, which is to be tied into bows. 

Nine: pieces of cloth laced together with round cord, on the same order 
as the fastenings on many of the children's underclothes. 

Ten: two pieces to be fastened together by means of the modern automatic 

Through the use of such toys, the children can practically analyse the 
movements necessary in dressing and undressing themselves, and can 
prepare themselves separately for these movements by means of repeated 
exercises. We succeed in teaching the child to dress himself without his 
really being aware of it, that is, without any direct or arbitrary 
command we have led him to this mastery. As soon as he knows how to do 
it, he begins to wish to make a practical application of his ability, 
and very soon he will be proud of being sufficient unto himself, and 
will take delight in an ability which makes his body free from the hands 
of others, and which leads him the sooner to that modesty and activity 
which develops far too late in those children of to-day who are deprived 
of this most practical form of education. The fastening games are very 
pleasing to the little ones, and often when ten of them are using the 
frames at the same time, seated around the little tables, quiet and 
serious, they give the impression of a workroom filled with tiny 
workers . 


The purpose of these gymnastics is to regulate the respiratory 
movements: in other words, to teach the _art of breathing_. They also 

help greatly the correct formation of the child's _speech habits_. The 
exercises which we use were introduced into school literature by 
Professor Sala. We have chosen the simple exercises described by him in 
his treatise, "Cura della Balbuzie. " [11] These include a number of 
respiratory gymnastic exercises with which are co-ordinated muscular 
exercises. I give here an example: 

[11] "Cura della Balbuzie e del Difetti di Pronunzia." Sala. 
Ulrico Hoepli, publisher, Milan, Italy. 

Mouth wide open, tongue held flat, hands on hips. 

Breathe deeply, lift the shoulders rapidly, lowering the diaphragm. 

Expel breath slowly, lowering shoulders slowly, returning to normal 

The directress should select or devise simple breathing exercises, to be 
accompanied with arm movements, etc. 

Exercises for proper use of _lips, tongue, and teeth_. These exercises 
teach the movements of the lips and tongue in the pronunciation of 
certain fundamental consonant sounds, reinforcing the muscles, and 
making them ready for these movements. These gymnastics prepare the 
organs used in the formation of language. 

In presenting such exercises we begin with the entire class, but finish 
by testing the children individually. We ask the child to pronounce, 
_aloud_ and with _force_, the first syllable of a word. When all are 
intent upon putting the greatest possible force into this, we call each 
child separately, and have him repeat the word. If he pronounces it 
correctly, we send him to the right, if badly, to the left. Those who 
have difficulty with the word, are then encouraged to repeat it several 
times. The teacher takes note of the age of the child, and of the 
particular defects in the movements of the muscles used in articulating. 
She may then touch the muscles which should be used, tapping, for 
example, the curve of the lips, or even taking hold of the child's 
tongue and placing it against the dental arch, or showing him clearly 
the movements which she herself makes when pronouncing the syllable. She 
must seek in every way to aid the normal development of the movements 
necessary to the exact articulation of the word. 

As the basis for these gymnastics we have the children pronounce the 
words : _pane_ — _f ame_ — _tana_ — _zina_ — _stella_ — _rana_ — _gatto_. 

In the pronunciation of _pane_, the child should repeat with much force, 
_P a _i _pa_> _pa_> "thus exercising the muscles producing orbicular 
contraction of the lips. 

In _fame_ repeating _fa_, _fa_, _fa_, the child exercises the movements 
of the lower lip against the upper dental arch. 

In _tana_, having him repeat _ta_, _ta_, _ta_, we cause him to exercise 
the movement of the tongue against the upper dental arch. 

In _zina_, we provoke the contact of the upper and lower dental arches. 

With _stella_ we have him repeat the whole word, bringing the teeth 
together, and holding the tongue (which has a tendency to protrude) 
close against the upper teeth. 

In _rana_ we have him repeat _r_, _r_, _r_, thus exercising the tongue 
in the vibratory movements. In _gatto_ we hold the voice upon the 
guttural _g_. 



Itard, in a remarkable pedagogical treatise: "_Des premiers 
dEveloppements du jeune sauvage de l'Aveyron_," expounds in detail the 
drama of a curious, gigantic education which attempted to overcome the 
psychical darkness of an idiot and at the same time to snatch a man from 
primitive nature. 

The savage of the Aveyron was a child who had grown up in the natural 
state: criminally abandoned in a forest where his assassins thought they 
had killed him, he was cured by natural means, and had survived for many 
years free and naked in the wilderness, until, captured by hunters, he 
entered into the civilised life of Paris, showing by the scars with 
which his miserable body was furrowed the story of the struggles with 
wild beasts, and of lacerations caused by falling from heights. 

The child was, and always remained, mute; his mentality, diagnosed by 
Pinel as idiotic, remained forever almost inaccessible to intellectual 

To this child are due the first steps of positive pedagogy. Itard, a 
physician of deaf-mutes and a student of philosophy, undertook his 
education with methods which he had already partially tried for treating 
defective hearing — believing at the beginning that the savage showed 
characteristics of inferiority, not because he was a degraded organism, 
but for want of education. He was a follower of the principles of 
Helvetius: "Man is nothing without the work of man"; that is, he 
believed in the omnipotence of education, and was opposed to the 
pedagogical principle which Rousseau had promulgated before the 
Revolution: "_Tout est bien sortant des mains de I'Auteur des choses, 
tout dEgEnEre dans les mains de l'homme_," — that is, the work of 
education is deleterious and spoils the man. 

The savage, according to the erroneous first impression of Itard, 
demonstrated experimentally by his characteristics the truth of the 
former assertion. When, however, he perceived, with the help of Pinel, 
that he had to do with an idiot, his philosophical theories gave place 
to the most admirable, tentative, experimental pedagogy. 

Itard divides the education of the savage into two parts. In the first, 
he endeavours to lead the child from natural life to social life; and in 
the second, he attempts the intellectual education of the idiot. The 
child in his life of frightful abandonment had found one happiness; he 
had, so to speak, immersed himself in, and unified himself with, nature, 
taking delight in it — rains, snow, tempests, boundless space, had been 
his sources of entertainment, his companions, his love. Civil life is a 
renunciation of all this: but it is an acquisition beneficent to human 
progress. In Itard 's pages we find vividly described the moral work 
which led the savage to civilisation, multiplying the needs of the child 
and surrounding him with loving care. Here is a sample of the admirably 
patient work of Itard as _observer of the spontaneous expressions_ of 
his pupil: it can most truly give teachers, who are to prepare for the 
experimental method, an idea of the patience and the self-abnegation 
necessary in dealing with a phenomenon which is to be observed: 

"When, for example, he was observed within his room, he was seen to be 
lounging with oppressive monotony, continually directing his eyes toward 
the window, with his gaze wandering in the void. If on such occasions a 
sudden storm blew up, if the sun, hidden behind the clouds, peeped out 
of a sudden, lighting the atmosphere brilliantly, there were loud bursts 
of laughter and almost convulsive joy. Sometimes, instead of these 
expressions of joy, there was a sort of frenzied rage: he would twist 
his arms, put his clenched fists upon his eyes, gnashing his teeth and 
becoming dangerous to those about him. 

"One morning, when the snow fell abundantly while he was still in bed, 
he uttered a cry of joy upon awaking, leaped from his bed, ran to the 
window and then to the door; went and came impatiently from one to the 
other; then ran out undressed as he was into the garden. There, giving 
vent to his joy with the shrillest of cries, he ran, rolled in the snow, 
gathered it up in handfuls, and swallowed it with incredible avidity. 

"But his sensations at sight of the great spectacles of nature did not 
always manifest themselves in such a vivid and noisy manner. It is 
worthy of note that in certain cases they were expressed by a quiet 
regret and melancholy. Thus, it was when the rigour of the weather drove 
everybody from the garden that the savage of the Aveyron chose to go 
there. He would walk around it several times and finally sit down upon 
the edge of the fountain. 

"I have often stopped for _whole hours_, and with indescribable 
pleasure, to watch him as he sat thus — to see how his face, inexpressive 
or contracted by grimaces, gradually assumed an expression of sadness, 
and of melancholy reminiscence, while his eyes were fixed upon the 
surface of the water into which from time to time he would throw a few 
dead leaves. 

"If when there was a full moon, a sheaf of mild beams penetrated into 
his room, he rarely failed to wake and to take his place at the window. 
He would remain there _for a large part of the night_, erect, 
motionless, with his head thrust forward, his eyes fixed on the 
countryside lighted by the moon, plunged in a sort of contemplative 
ecstasy, the immobility and silence of which were only interrupted at 
long intervals by a breath as deep as a sigh, which died away in a 
plaintive sound of lamentation." 

Elsewhere, Itard relates that the boy did not know the _walking gait_ 
which we use in civilised life, but only the _running gait_, and tells 
how he, Itard, ran after him at the beginning, when he took him out into 
the streets of Paris, rather than violently check the boy's running. 

The gradual and gentle leading of the savage through all the 
manifestations of social life, the early adaptation of the teacher to 
the pupil rather than of the pupil to the teacher, the successive 
attraction to a new life which was to win over the child by its charms, 
and not be imposed upon him violently so that the pupil should feel it 
as a burden and a torture, are as many precious educative expressions 
which may be generalised and applied to the education of children. 

I believe that there exists no document which offers so poignant and so 
eloquent a contrast between the life of nature and the life of society, 
and which so graphically shows that society is made up solely of 
renunciations and restraints. Let it suffice to recall the run, checked 
to a walk, and the loud-voiced cry, checked to the modulations of the 
ordinary speaking voice. 

And, yet, without any violence, leaving to social life the task of 
charming the child little by little, Itard's education triumphs. It is 
true that civilised life is made by renunciation of the life of nature; 
it is almost the snatching of a man from the lap of earth; it is like 
snatching the new-born child from its mother's breast; but it is also a 
new life. 

In Itard's pages we see the final triumph of the love of man over the 
love of nature: the savage of the Aveyron ends by _feeling_ and 
preferring the affection of Itard, the caresses, the tears shed over 
him, to the joy of immersing himself voluptuously in the snow, and of 
contemplating the infinite expanse of the sky on a starry night: one day 
after an attempted escape into the country, he returns of his own 
accord, humble and repentant, to find his good soup and his warm bed. 

It is true that man has created enjoyments in social life and has 
brought about a vigorous human love in community life. But nevertheless 

he still belongs to nature, and, especially when he is a child, he must 
needs draw from it the forces necessary to the development of the body 
and of the spirit. We have intimate communications with nature which 
have an influence, even a material influence, on the growth of the body. 
(For example, a physiologist, isolating young guinea pigs from 
terrestrial magnetism by means of insulators, found that they grew up 
with rickets.) 

In the education of little children Itard's educative drama is repeated: 
we must prepare man, who is one among the living creatures and therefore 
belongs to nature, for social life, because social life being his own 
peculiar work, must also correspond to the manifestation of his natural 

But the advantages which we prepare for him in this social life, in a 
great measure escape the little child, who at the beginning of his life 
is a predominantly vegetative creature. 

To soften this transition in education, by giving a large part of the 
educative work to nature itself, is as necessary as it is not to snatch 
the little child suddenly and violently from its mother and to take him 
to school; and precisely this is done in the "Children's Houses," which 
are situated within the tenements where the parents live, where the cry 
of the child reaches the mother and the mother's voice answers it. 

Nowadays, under the form of child hygiene, this part of education is 
much cultivated: children are allowed to grow up in the open air, in the 
public gardens, or are left for many hours half naked on the seashore, 
exposed to the rays of the sun. It has been understood, through the 
diffusion of marine and Apennine colonies, that the best means of 
invigorating the child is to immerse him in nature. 

Short and comfortable clothing for children, sandals for the feet, 
nudity of the lower extremities, are so many liberations from the 
oppressive shackles of civilisation. 

It is an obvious principle that we should sacrifice to natural liberties 
in education only as much as is _necessary_ for the acquisition of the 
greater pleasures which are offered by civilisation without _useless 
sacrif ices_. 

But in all this progress of modern child education, we have not freed 
ourselves from the prejudice which denies children spiritual expression 
and spiritual needs, and makes us consider them only as amiable 
vegetating bodies to be cared for, kissed, and set in motion. The 
_education_ which a good mother or a good modern teacher gives to-day 
to the child who, for example, is running about in a flower garden is 
the counsel _not to touch the flowers_, not to tread on the grass; as if 
it were sufficient for the child to satisfy the physiological needs of 
his body by moving his legs and breathing fresh air. 

But if for the physical life it is necessary to have the child exposed 
to the vivifying forces of nature, it is also necessary for his 
psychical life to place the soul of the child in contact with creation, 
in order that he may lay up for himself treasure from the directly 
educating forces of living nature. The method for arriving at this end 
is to set the child at agricultural labour, guiding him to the 
cultivation of plants and animals, and so to the intelligent 
contemplation of nature. 

Already, in England Mrs. Latter has devised the _basis_ for a method of 
child education by means of _gardening_ and _horticulture_. She sees in 
the contemplation of developing life the bases of religion, since the 
soul of the child may go from the creature to the Creator. She sees in 
it also the point of departure for intellectual education, which she 
limits to drawing from life as a step toward art, to the ideas about 
plants, insects, and seasons, which spring from agriculture, and to the 
first notions of household life, which spring from the cultivation and 

the culinary preparation of certain alimentary products that children 
later serve upon the table, providing afterwards also for the washing of 
the utensils and tableware. 

Mrs. Latter 1 s conception is too one-sided; but her institutions, which 
continue to spread in England, undoubtedly complete the natural 
_education_ which, up to this time limited to the physical side, has 
already been so efficacious in invigorating the bodies of English 
children. Moreover, her experience offers a positive corroboration of 
the practicability of agricultural teaching in the case of little 

As for deficients, I have seen agriculture applied on a large scale to 
their education at Paris by the means which the kindly spirit of 
Baccelli tried to introduce into the elementary schools when he 
attempted to institute the "little educative gardens." In every _little 
garden_ are sown different agricultural products, demonstrating 
practically the proper method and the proper time for seeding and for 
crop gathering, and the period of development of the various products; 
the manner of preparing the soil, of enriching it with natural or 
chemical manures, etc. The same is done for ornamental plants and for 
gardening, which is the work yielding the best income for deficients, 
when they are of an age to practise a profession. 

But this side of education, though it contains, in the first place, an 
objective method of intellectual culture, and, in addition, a 
professional preparation, is not, in my opinion, to be taken into 
serious consideration for child education. The educational conception of 
this age must be solely that of aiding the psycho-physical development 
of the individual; and, this being the case, agriculture and animal 
culture contain in themselves precious means of moral education which 
can be analysed far more than is done by Mrs. Latter, who sees in them 
essentially a method of conducting the child's soul to religious 
feeling. Indeed, in this method, which is a progressive ascent, several 
gradations can be distinguished: I mention here the principal ones: 

_First. The child is initiated into observation_ of the phenomena of 

life. He stands with respect to the plants and animals in relations 
analogous to those in which the _observing_ teacher stands towards him. 
Little by little, as interest and observation grow, his zealous care 
for the living creatures grows also, and in this way, the child can 
logically be brought to appreciate the care which the mother and the 
teacher take of him. 

_Second._ The child is initiated into _foresight_ by way of 
_auto-education_; when he knows that the life of the plants that have 
been sown depends upon his care in watering them, and that of the 
animals, upon his diligence in feeding them, without which the little 
plant dries up and the animals suffer hunger, the child becomes 
vigilant, as one who is beginning to feel a mission in life. Moreover, a 
voice quite different from that of his mother and his teacher calling 
him to his duties, is speaking here, exhorting him never to forget the 
task he has undertaken. It is the plaintive voice of the needy life 
which lives by his care. Between the child and the living creatures 
which he cultivates there is born a mysterious correspondence which 
induces the child to fulfil certain determinate acts without the 
intervention of the teacher, that is, leads him to an _auto-education_. 

The rewards which the child reaps also remain between him and nature: 
one fine day after long patient care in carrying food and straw to the 
brooding pigeons, behold the little ones! behold a number of chickens 
peeping about the setting hen which yesterday sat motionless in her 
brooding place! behold one day the tender little rabbits in the hutch 
where formerly dwelt in solitude the pair of big rabbits to which he had 
not a few times lovingly carried the green vegetables left over in his 
mother's kitchen! 

I have not yet been able to institute in Rome the breeding of animals, 

but in the "Children's Houses" at Milan there are several animals, among 
them a pair of pretty little white American fowl that live in a 
diminutive and elegant _chalet_, similar in construction to a Chinese 
pagoda: in front of it, a little piece of ground inclosed by a rampart 
is reserved for the pair. The little door of the _chalet_ is locked at 
evening, and the children take care of it in turn. With what delight 
they go in the morning to unlock the door, to fetch water and straw, and 
with what care they watch during the day, and at evening lock the door 
after having made sure that the fowl lack nothing! The teacher informs 
me that among all the educative exercises this is the most welcome, and 
seems also the most important of all. Many a time when the children are 
tranquilly occupied in tasks, each at the work he prefers, one, two, or 
three, get up silently, and go out to cast a glance at the animals to 
see if they need care. Often it happens that a child absents himself for 
a long time and the teacher surprises him watching enchantedly the fish 
gliding ruddy and resplendent in the sunlight in the waters of the 

One day I received from the teacher in Milan a letter in which she spoke 
to me with great enthusiasm of a truly wonderful piece of news. The 
little pigeons were hatched. For the children it was a great festival. 
They felt themselves to some extent the parents of these little ones, 
and no artificial reward which had flattered their vanity would ever 
have provoked such a truly fine emotion. Not less great are the joys 
which vegetable nature provides. In one of the "Children's Houses" at 
Rome, where there was no soil that could be cultivated, there have been 
arranged, through the efforts of Signora Talamo, flower-pots all around 
the large terrace, and climbing plants near the walls. The children 
never forget to water the plants with their little watering-pots. 

One day I found them seated on the ground, all in a circle, around a 
splendid red rose which had bloomed in the night; silent and calm, 
literally immersed in mute contemplation. 

_Third._ The children are initiated into the virtue of _patience and 
into confident expectation_, which is a form of faith and of philosophy 
of life. 

When the children put a seed into the ground, and wait until it 
fructifies, and see the first appearance of the shapeless plant, and 
wait for the growth and the transformations into flower and fruit, and 
see how some plants sprout sooner and some later, and how the deciduous 
plants have a rapid life, and the fruit-trees a slower growth, they end 
by acquiring a peaceful equilibrium of conscience, and absorb the first 
germs of that wisdom which so characterised the tillers of the soil in 
the time when they still kept their primitive simplicity. 

_Fourth. The children are inspired with a feeling for nature_, which 

is maintained by the marvels of creation — that creation which _rewards_ 
with a generosity not measured by the labour of those who help it to 
evolve the life of its creatures. 

Even while at the work, a sort of correspondence arises between the 
child's soul and the lives which are developed under his care. The child 
loves naturally the manifestations of life: Mrs. Latter tells us how 
easily little ones are interested even in earthworms and in the movement 
of the larvE of insects in manure, without feeling that horror which we, 
who have grown up isolated from nature, experience towards certain 
animals. It is well then, to develop this feeling of trust and 
confidence in living creatures, which is, moreover, a form of love, and 
of union with the universe. 

But what most develops a feeling of nature is the _cultivation_ of the 
_living_ things, because they by their natural development give back far 
more than they receive, and show something like infinity in their beauty 
and variety. When the child has cultivated the iris or the pansy, the 
rose or the hyacinth, has placed in the soil a seed or a bulb and 
periodically watered it, or has planted a fruit-bearing shrub, and the 

blossomed flower and the ripened fruit offer themselves as a _generous 
gift_ of nature, a rich reward for a small effort; it seems almost as if 
nature were answering with her gifts to the feeling of desire, to the 
vigilant love of the cultivator, rather than striking a balance with his 
material efforts. 

It will be quite different when the child has to gather the _material_ 
fruits of his labour: motionless, uniform objects, which are consumed 
and dispersed rather than increased and multiplied. 

The difference between the products of nature and those of industry, 
between divine products and human products — it is this that must be born 
spontaneously in the child's conscience, like the determination of a 

But at the same time, as the plant must give its fruit, so man must give 
his labour. 

_Fifth. The child follows the natural way of development of the human 

race._ In short, such education makes the evolution of the individual 
harmonise with that of humanity. Man passed from the natural to the 
artificial state through agriculture: when he discovered the secret of 
intensifying the production of the soil, he obtained the reward of 

The same path must be traversed by the child who is destined to become a 
civilised man. 

The action of educative nature so understood is very practically 
accessible. Because, even if the vast stretch of ground and the large 
courtyard necessary for physical education are lacking, it will always 
be possible to find a few square yards of land that may be cultivated, 
or a little place where pigeons can make their nest, things sufficient 
for spiritual education. Even a pot of flowers at the window can, if 
necessary, fulfil the purpose. 

In the first "Children's House" in Rome we have a vast courtyard, 
cultivated as a garden, where the children are free to run in the open 
air — and, besides, a long stretch of ground, which is planted on one 
side with trees, has a branching path in the middle, and on the opposite 
side, has broken ground for the cultivation of plants. This last, we 
have divided into so many portions, reserving one for each child. 

While the smaller children run freely up and down the paths, or rest in 
the shade of the trees, the _possessors of the earth_ (children from 
four years of age up), are sowing, or hoeing, watering or examining, the 
surface of the soil watching for the sprouting of plants. It is 
interesting to note the following fact: the little reservations of the 
children are placed along the wall of the tenement, in a spot formerly 
neglected because it leads to a blind road; the inhabitants of the 
house, therefore, had the habit of throwing from those windows every 
kind of offal, and at the beginning our garden was thus contaminated. 

But, little by little, without any exhortation on our part, solely 
through the respect born in the people's mind for the children's labour, 
nothing more fell from the windows, except the loving glances and smiles 
of the mothers upon the soil which was the beloved possession of their 
little children. 



Manual labour is distinguished from manual gymnastics by the fact that 

the object of the latter is to exercise the hand, and the former, to 
_accomplish a determinate work_, being, or simulating, a socially useful 
object. The one perfects the individual, the other enriches the world; 
the two things are, however, connected because, in general, only one who 
has perfected his own hand can produce a useful product. 

I have thought wise, after a short trial, to exclude completely 
Froebel's exercises, because weaving and sewing on cardboard are ill 
adapted to the physiological state of the child's visual organs where 
the powers of the accommodation of the eye have not yet reached complete 
development; hence, these exercises cause an _effort_ of the organ which 
may have a fatal influence on the development of the sight. The other 
little exercises of Froebel, such as the folding of paper, are exercises 
of the hand, not work. 

There is still left plastic work, — the most rational among all the 
exercises of Froebel, — which consists in making the child reproduce 
determinate objects in clay. 

In consideration, however, of the system of liberty which I proposed, I 
did not like to make the children _copy_ anything, and, in giving them 
clay to fashion in their own manner, I did not direct the children to 
_produce useful things_; nor was I accomplishing an educative result, 
inasmuch as plastic work, as I shall show later, serves for the study 
of the psychic individuality of the child in his spontaneous 
manifestations, but not for his education. 

I decided therefore to try in the "Children's Houses" some very 
interesting exercises which I had seen accomplished by an artist, 
Professor Randone, in the "School of Educative Art" founded by him. This 
school had its origin along with the society for young people, called 
_Giovinezza Gentile_, both school and society having the object of 
educating youth in gentleness towards their surroundings — that is, in 
respect for objects, buildings, monuments: a really important part of 
civil education, and one which interested me particularly on account of 
the "Children's Houses," since that institution has, as its fundamental 
aim, to teach precisely this respect for the walls, for the house, for 
the surroundings. 

Very suitably, Professor Randone had decided that the society of 
_Giovinezza Gentile_ could not be based upon sterile theoretical 
preachings of the principles of citizenship, or upon moral pledges taken 
by the children; but that it must proceed from an artistic education 
which should lead the youth to appreciate and love, and consequently 
respect, objects and especially monuments and historic buildings. Thus 
the "School of Educative Art" was inspired by a broad artistic 
conception including the reproduction of objects which are commonly met 
in the surroundings; the history and pre-history of their production, 
and the illustration of the principal civic monuments which, in Rome, 
are in large measure composed of archEological monuments. In order the 
more directly to accomplish his object, Professor Randone founded his 
admirable school in an opening in one of the most artistic parts of the 
walls of Rome, namely, the wall of Belisarius, overlooking the Villa 
Umberto Primo — a wall which has been entirely neglected by the 
authorities and by no means respected by the citizens, and upon which 
Randone lavished care, decorating it with graceful hanging gardens on 
the outside, and locating within it the School of Art which was to shape 
the _Giovinezza Gentile_. 

Here Randone has tried, very fittingly, to rebuild and revive a form of 
art which was once the glory of Italy and of Florence — the potter's art, 
that is, the art of constructing vases. 

The archEological, historical, and artistic importance of the vase is 
very great, and may be compared with the numismatic art. In fact the 
first object of which humanity felt the need was the _vase_, which came 
into being with the utilisation of fire, and before the discovery of the 
_production_ of fire. Indeed the first food of mankind was cooked in a 


One of the things most important, ethnically, in judging the 
civilisation of a primitive people is the grade of perfection attained 
in _pottery_; in fact, the _vase_ for domestic life and the axe for 
social life are the first sacred symbols which we find in the 
prehistoric epoch, and are the religious symbols connected with the 
temples of the gods and with the cult of the dead. Even to-day, 
religious cults have sacred vases in their Sancta Sanctorum. 

People who have progressed in civilisation show their feeling for art 
and their Esthetic feeling also in _vases_ which are multiplied in 
almost infinite form, as we see in Egyptian, Etruscan, and Greek art. 

The vase then comes into being, attains perfection, and is multiplied in 
its uses and its forms, in the course of human civilisation; and the 
history of the vase follows the history of humanity itself. Besides the 
civil and moral importance of the vase, we have another and practical 
one, its literal _adaptability_ to every modification of form, and its 
susceptibility to the most diverse ornamentation; in this, it gives free 
scope to the individual genius of the artist. 

Thus, when once the handicraft leading to the construction of vases has 
been learned (and this is the part of the progress in the work, learned 
from the direct and graduated instruction of the teacher), anyone can 
modify it according to the inspiration of his own Esthetic taste and 
this is the artistic, individual part of the work. Besides this, in 
Randone's school the use of the potter's wheel is taught, and also the 
composition of the mixture for the bath of majolica ware, and baking the 
pieces in the furnace, stages of manual labour which contain an 
industrial culture. 

Another work in the School of Educative Art is the manufacture of 
diminutive bricks, and their baking in the furnace, and the construction 
of diminutive _walls_ built by the same processes which the masons use 
in the construction of houses, the bricks being joined by means of 
mortar handled with a trowel. After the simple construction of the 
wall, — which is very amusing for the children who build it, placing 
brick on brick, superimposing row on row, — the children pass to the 
construction of real _houses_, — first, resting on the ground, and, then, 
really constructed with foundations, after a previous excavation of 
large holes in the ground by means of little hoes and shovels. These 
little houses have openings corresponding to windows and doors, and are 
variously ornamented in their faAades by little tiles of bright and 
multi-coloured majolica: the tiles themselves being manufactured by the 

Thus the children learn to _appreciate_ the objects and constructions 
which surround them, while a real manual and artistic labour gives them 
profitable exercise. 

Such is the manual training which I have adopted in the "Children's 
Houses"; after two or three lessons the little pupils are already 
enthusiastic about the construction of vases, and they preserve very 
carefully their own products, in which they take pride. With their 
plastic art they then model little objects, eggs or fruits, with which 
they themselves fill the vases. One of the first undertakings is the 
simple vase of red clay filled with eggs of white clay; then comes the 
modelling of the vase with one or more spouts, of the narrow-mouthed 
vase, of the vase with a handle, of that with two or three handles, of 
the tripod, of the amphora. 

For children of the age of five or six, the work of the potter's wheel 
begins. But what most delights the children is the work of building a 
wall with little bricks, and seeing a little house, the fruit of their 
own hands, rise in the vicinity of the ground in which are growing 
plants, also cultivated by them. Thus the age of childhood epitomises 
the principal primitive labours of humanity, when the human race, 

changing from the nomadic to the stable condition, demanded of the earth 
its fruit, built itself shelter, and devised vases to cook the foods 
yielded by the fertile earth. 



In a pedagogical method which is experimental the education of the 
senses must undoubtedly assume the greatest importance. Experimental 
psychology also takes note of movements by means of sense measurements. 

Pedagogy, however, although it may profit by psychometry is not designed 
to _measure_ the sensations, but _educate_ the senses. This is a point 
easily understood, yet one which is often confused. While the 
proceedings of esthesiomet ry are not to any great extent applicable to 
little children, the _education_ of the _senses_ is entirely possible. 

We do not start from the conclusions of experimental psychology. That 
is, it is not the knowledge of the average sense conditions according to 
the age of the child which leads us to determine the educational 
applications we shall make. We start essentially from a method, and it 
is probable that psychology will be able to draw its conclusions from 
pedagogy so understood, and not _vice versa_. 

The method used by me is that of making a pedagogical experiment with a 
didactic object and awaiting the spontaneous reaction of the child. This 
is a method in every way analogous to that of experimental psychology. 

I make use of a material which, at first glance, may be confused with 
psychometric material. Teachers from Milan who had followed the course 
in the Milan school of experimental psychology, seeing my material 
exposed, would recognise among it, measures of the perception of colour, 
hardness, and weight, and would conclude that, in truth, I brought no 
new contribution to pedagogy since these instruments were already known 
to them. 

But the great difference between the two materials lies in this: The 
esthesiometer carries within itself the possibility of _measuring_; my 
objects on the contrary, often do not permit a measure, but are adapted 
to cause the child to _exercise_ the senses. 

In order that an instrument shall attain such a pedagogical end, it is 
necessary that it shall not _weary_ but shall _divert_ the child. Here 
lies the difficulty in the selection of didactic material. It is known 
that the psychometric instruments are great _consumers of energy_ — for 
this reason, when Pizzoli wished to apply them to the education of the 
senses, he did not succeed because the child was annoyed by them, and 
became tired. Instead, _the aim of education is to develop the 

Psychometric instruments, or better, the instruments of _esthesiometry_, 
are prepared in their differential gradations upon the laws of Weber, 
which were in truth drawn from experiments made upon adults. 

With little children, we must proceed to the making of trials, and must 
select the didactic materials in which they show themselves to be 

This I did in the first year of the "Children's Houses" adopting a great 
variety of stimuli, with a number of which I had already experimented in 
the school for deficients. 

Much of the material used for deficients is abandoned in the education 

of the normal child — and much that is used has been greatly modified. I 
believe, however, that I have arrived at a _selection of objects_ (which 
I do not here wish to speak of in the technical language of psychology 
as stimuli) representing the minimum _necessary_ to a practical sense 

These objects constitute the _didactic system_ (or set of didactic 
materials) used by me. They are manufactured by the House of Labour of 
the Humanitarian Society at Milan. 

A description of the objects will be given as the educational scope of 
each is explained. Here I shall limit myself to the setting forth of a 
few general considerations. 

_First. The difference in the reaction between deficient and normal 

children, in the presentation of didactic material made up of graded 
stimuli. _ This difference is plainly seen from the fact that the same 
didactic material used with deficients _makes education possible_, while 
with normal children it _provokes auto-education_. 

This fact is one of the most interesting I have met with in all my 
experience, and it inspired and rendered possible the method of 
_observation_ and _liberty_. 

Let us suppose that we use our first object, — a block in which solid 
geometric forms are set. Into corresponding holes in the block are set 
ten little wooden cylinders, the bases diminishing gradually about the 
millimetres. The game consists in taking the cylinders out of their 
places, putting them on the table, mixing them, and then putting each 
one back in its own place. The aim is to educate the eye to the 
differential perception of dimensions. 

With the deficient child, it would be necessary to begin with exercises 
in which the stimuli were much more strongly contrasted, and to arrive 
at this exercise only after many others had preceded it. 

With normal children, this is, on the other hand, the first object which 
we may present, and out of all the didactic material this is the game 
preferred by the very little children of two and a half and three years. 
Once we arrived at this exercise with a deficient child, it was 
necessary continually and actively to recall his attention, inviting him 
to look at the block and showing him the various pieces. And if the 
child once succeeded in placing all the cylinders properly, he stopped, 
and the game was finished. Whenever the deficient child committed an 
error, it was necessary to correct it, or to urge him to correct it 
himself, and when he was able to correct an error he was usually quite 

Now the normal child, instead, takes spontaneously a lively interest in 
this game. He pushes away all who would interfere, or offer to help him, 
and wishes to be alone before his problem. 

It had already been noted that little ones of two or three years take 
the greatest pleasure in arranging small objects, and this experiment in 
the "Children's Houses" demonstrates the truth of this assertion. 

Now, and here is the important point, the normal child attentively 
observes the relation between the size of the opening and that of the 
object which he is to place in the mould, and is greatly interested in 
the game, as is clearly shown by the expression of attention on the 
little face. 

If he mistakes, placing one of the objects in an opening that is small 
for it, he takes it away, and proceeds to make various trials, seeking 
the proper opening. If he makes a contrary error, letting the cylinder 
fall into an opening that is a little too large for it, and then 
collects all the successive cylinders in openings just a little too 
large, he will find himself at the last with the big cylinder in his 

hand while only the smallest opening is empty. The didactic material 
_controls every error_. The child proceeds to correct himself, doing 
this in various ways. Most often he feels the cylinders or shakes them, 
in order to recognise which are the largest. Sometimes, he sees at a 
glance where his error lies, pulls the cylinders from the places where 
they should not be, and puts those left out where they belong, then 
replaces all the others. The normal child always repeats the exercise 
with growing interest. 

Indeed, it is precisely in these errors that the educational importance 
of the didactic material lies, and when the child with evident security 
places each piece in its proper place, he has outgrown the exercise, and 
this piece of material becomes useless to him. 

This self-correction leads the child to concentrate his attention upon 
the differences of dimensions, and to compare the various pieces. It is 
in just this comparison that the _psycho-sensory_ exercise lies. 

There is, therefore, no question here of teaching the child the 
_knowledge_ of the dimensions, through the medium of these pieces. 
Neither is it our aim that the child shall know how to use, _without an 
error_, the material presented to him thus performing the exercises 

That would place our material on the same basis as many others, for 
example that of Froebel, and would require again the _active_ work of 
the _teacher_, who busies herself furnishing knowledge, and making haste 
to correct every error in order that the child may _learn the use of the 

Here instead it is the work of the child, the auto-correction, the 
auto-education which acts, for the _teacher must not interfere_ in the 
_slightest_ way. No teacher can furnish the child with the _agility 
which he acquires_ through gymnastic _exercises_: it is necessary that 
the _pupil perfect himself_ through his own efforts. It is very much the 
same with the _education of the senses_. 

It might be said that the same thing is true of every form of education; 
a man is not what he is because of the teachers he has had, but because 
of what he has done. 

One of the difficulties of putting this method into practice with 
teachers of the old school, lies in the difficulty of preventing them 
from intervening when the little child remains for some time puzzled 
before some error, and with his eyebrows drawn together and his lips 
puckered, makes repeated efforts to correct himself. When they see this, 
the old-time teachers are seized with pity, and long, with an almost 
irresistible force, to help the child. When we prevent this 
intervention, they burst into words of compassion for the little 
scholar, but he soon shows in his smiling face the joy of having 
surmounted an obstacle. 

Normal children repeat such exercises many times. This repetition varies 
according to the individual. Some children after having completed the 
exercise five or six times are tired of it. Others will remove and 
replace the pieces at least _twenty times_, with an expression of 
evident interest. Once, after I had watched a little one of four years 
repeat this exercise sixteen times, I had the other children sing in 
order to distract her, but she continued unmoved to take out the 
cylinders, mix them up and put them back in their places. 

An intelligent teacher ought to be able to make most interesting 
individual psychological observations, and, to a certain point, should 
be able to measure the length of time for which the various stimuli held 
the attention. 

In fact, when the child educates himself, and when the control and 
correction of errors is yielded to the didactic material, there _remains 

for the teacher nothing but to observe_. She must then be more of a 
psychologist than a teacher, and this shows the importance of a 
scientific preparation on the part of the teacher. 

Indeed, with my methods, the teacher teaches _little_ and observes 
_much_, and, above all, it is her function to direct the psychic 
activity of the children and their physiological development. For this 
reason I have changed the name of teacher into that of directress. 

At first this name provoked many smiles, for everyone asked whom there 
was for this teacher to direct, since she had no assistants, and since 
she must leave her little scholars _in liberty_. But her direction is 
much more profound and important than that which is commonly understood, 
for this teacher directs _the life and the soul_. 

_Second. The education of the senses has, as its aim, the refinement 

of the differential perception of stimuli by means of repeated 
exercises. _ 

There exists a _sensory culture_, which is not generally taken into 
consideration, but which is a factor in esthesiometry. 

For example, in the mental _tests_ which are used in France, or in a 
series of tests which De Sanctis has established for the _diagnosis_ of 
the intellectual status, I have often seen used _cubes of different 
sizes placed at varying distances_. The child was to select the 
_smallest_ and the _largest_, while the chronometer measured the time of 
reaction between the command and the execution of the act. Account was 
also taken of the errors. I repeat that in such experiments the factor 
of _culture_ is forgotten and by this I mean _sensory culture_. 

Our children have, for example, among the didactic material for the 
education of the senses, a series of ten cubes. The first has a base of 
ten centimetres, and the others decrease, successively, one centimetre 
as to base, the smallest cube having a base of one centimetre. The 
exercise consists in throwing the blocks, which are pink in colour, down 
upon a green carpet, and then building them up into a little tower, 
placing the largest cube as the base, and then placing the others in 
order of size until the little cube of one centimetre is placed at the 

The little one must each time select, from the blocks scattered upon the 
green carpet, "the largest" block. This game is most entertaining to the 
little ones of two years and a half, who, as soon as they have 
constructed the little tower, tumble it down with little blows of the 
hand, admiring the pink cubes as they lie scattered upon the green 
carpet. Then, they begin again the construction, building and destroying 
a definite number of times. 

If we were to place before these tests one of my children from three to 
four years, and one of the children from the first elementary (six or 
seven years old), my pupil would undoubtedly manifest a shorter period 
of reaction, and would not commit errors. The same may be said for the 
tests of the chromatic sense, etc. 

This educational method should therefore prove interesting to students 
of experimental psychology as well as to teachers. 

In conclusion, let me summarize briefly: Our didactic material renders 
auto-education possible, permits a methodical education of the senses. 
Not upon the ability of the teacher does such education rest, but upon 
the didactic system. This presents objects which, first, attract the 
spontaneous attention of the child, and, second, contain a rational 
gradation of stimuli. 

We must not confuse the _education_ of the senses, with the concrete 
ideas which may be gathered from our environment by means of the senses. 
Nor must this education of the senses be identical in our minds with the 

language through which is given the nomenclature corresponding to the 
concrete idea, nor with the acquisition of the abstract idea of the 

Let us consider what the music master does in giving instruction in 
piano playing. He teaches the pupil the correct position of the body, 
gives him the idea of the notes, shows him the correspondence between 
the written notes and the touch and the position of the fingers, and 
then he leaves the child to perform the exercise by himself. If a 
pianist is to be made of this child, there must, between the ideas given 
by the teacher and the musical exercises, intervene long and patient 
application to those exercises which serve to give agility to the 
articulation of the fingers and of the tendons, in order that the 
co-ordination of special muscular movements shall become automatic, and 
that the muscles of the hand shall become strong through their repeated 

The pianist must, therefore, _act for himself_, and the more his natural 
tendencies lead him to _persist_ in these exercises the greater will be 
his success. However, without the direction of the master the exercise 
will not suffice to develop the scholar into a true pianist. 

The directress of the "Children's House" must have a clear idea of the 
two factors which enter into her work — the guidance of the child, and 
the individual exercise. 

Only after she has this concept clearly fixed in her mind, may she 
proceed to the application of a _method_ to _guide_ the spontaneous 
education of the child and to impart necessary notions to him. 

In the opportune quality and in the manner of this intervention lies the 
_personal art_ of the _educator_. 

For example, in the "Children's House" in the Prati di Castello, where 
the pupils belong to the middle-class, I found, a month after the 
opening of the school, a child of five years who already knew how to 
compose any word, as he knew the alphabet perfectly — he had learned it 
in two weeks. He knew how to write on the blackboard, and in the 
exercises in free design he showed himself not only to be an observer, 
but to have some intuitive idea of perspective, drawing a house and 
chair very cleverly. As for the exercises of the chromatic sense, he 
could mix together the eight gradations of the eight colours which we 
use, and from this mass of sixty-four tablets, each wound with silk of a 
different colour or shade, he could rapidly separate the eight groups. 
Having done this, he would proceed with ease to arrange each colour 
series in perfect gradation. In this game the child would almost cover 
one of the little tables with a carpet of finely-shaded colours. I made 
the experiment, taking him to the window and showing him in full 
daylight one of the coloured tablets, telling him to look at it well, so 
that he might be able to remember it. I then sent him to the table on 
which all the gradations were spread out, and asked him to find the 
tablet like the one at which he had looked. He committed only very 
slight errors, often choosing the exact shade but more often the one 
next it, rarely a tint two grades removed from the right one. This boy 
had then a power of discrimination and a colour memory which were almost 
prodigious. Like all the other children, he was exceedingly fond of the 
colour exercises. But when I asked the name of the white colour spool, 
he hesitated for a long time before replying uncertainly "white." Now a 
child of such intelligence should have been able, even without the 
special intervention of the teacher, to learn the name of each colour. 

The directress told me that having noticed that the child had great 
difficulty in retaining the nomenclature of the colours, she had up 
until that time left him to exercise himself freely with the games for 
the colour sense. At the same time he had developed rapidly a power over 
written language, which in my method as presented through a series 
of problems to be solved. These problems are presented as sense 
exercises. This child was, therefore, most intelligent. In him the 

discriminative sensory perceptions kept pace with great intellectual 
activities — attention and judgment. But his _memory for names_ was 

The directress had thought best not to interfere, as yet, in the 
teaching of the child. Certainly, the education of the child was a 
little disordered, and the directress had left the spontaneous 
explanation of his mental activities excessively free. However desirable 
it may be to furnish a sense education as a basis for intellectual 
ideas, it is nevertheless advisable at the same time to associate the 
_language_ with these _perceptions_. 

In this connection I have found excellent for use with normal children 
_the three periods_ of which the lesson according to SEguin consists: 

_First Period. _ The association of the sensory perception with the name. 

For example, we present to the child, two colours, red and blue. 
Presenting the red, we say simply, "This is red," and presenting the 
blue, "This is blue." Then, we lay the spools upon the table under the 
eyes of the child. 

_Second Period. _ Recognition of the object corresponding to the name. We 
Say to the child, "Give me the red," and then, "Give me the blue." 

_Third Period. _ The remembering of the name corresponding to the object. 
We ask the child, showing him the object, "What is this?" and he should 
respond, "Red." 

SEguin insists strongly upon these three periods, and urges that the 
colours be left for several instants under the eyes of the child. He 
also advises us never to present the colour singly, but always two at a 
time, since the contrast helps the chromatic memory. Indeed, I have 
proved that there cannot be a better method for teaching colour to the 
deficients, who, with this method were able to learn the colours much 
more perfectly than normal children in the ordinary schools who have had 
a haphazard sense education. For normal children however there exists a 
_period preceding_ the Three Periods of SEguin — a period which contains 
the real _sense education_. This is the acquisition of a fineness of 
differential perception, which can be obtained _only_ through 

This, then, is an example of the great superiority of the normal child, 
and of the greater effect of education which such pedagogical methods 
may exercise upon the mental development of normal as compared with 
deficient children. 

The association of the name with the stimulus is a source of great 
pleasure to the normal child. I remember, one day, I had taught a little 
girl, who was not yet three years old, and who was a little tardy in the 
development of language, the names of three colours. I had the children 
place one of their little tables near a window, and seating myself in 
one of the little chairs, I seated the little girl in a similar chair at 
my right. 

I had, on the table, six of the colour spools in pairs, that is two 
reds, two blues, two yellows. In the First Period, I placed one of the 
spools before the child, asking her to find the one like it. This I 
repeated for all three of the colours, showing her how to arrange them 
carefully in pairs. After this I passed to the Three Periods of SEguin. 
The little girl learned to recognise the three colours and to pronounce 
the name of each. 

She was so happy that she looked at me for a long time, and then began 
to jump up and down. I, seeing her pleasure, said to her, laughing, "Do 
you know the colours?" and she replied, still jumping up and down, "Yes! 
YES!" Her delight was inexhaustible; she danced about me, waiting 
joyously for me to ask her the same question, that she might reply with 

the same enthusiasm, "Yes! Yes!" 

Another important particular in the technique of sense education lies in 
_isolating the sense_, whenever this is possible. So, for example, the 
exercises on the sense of hearing can be given more successfully in an 
environment not only of silence, but even of darkness. 

For the education of the senses in general, such as in the tactile, 
thermic, baric, and stereognostic exercises, we blindfold the child. The 
reasons for this particular technique have been fully set forth by 
psychology. Here, it is enough to note that in the case of normal 
children the blindfold greatly increases their interest, without making 
the exercises degenerate into noisy fun, and without having the child's 
attention attracted more to the _bandage_ than to the sense-stimuli upon 
which we wish to _focus_ the attention. 

For example, in order to test the acuteness of the child's sense of 
hearing (a most important thing for the teacher to know), I use an 
empiric test which is coming to be used almost universally by physicians 
in the making of medical examinations. This test is made by modulating 
the voice, reducing it to a whisper. The child is blindfolded, or the 
teacher may stand behind him, speaking his name, in _a whisper_ and from 
varying distances. I establish a _solemn silence_ in the schoolroom, 
darken the windows, have the children bow their heads upon their hands 
which they hold in front of their eyes. Then I call the children by 
name, one by one, in a whisper, lighter for those who are nearer me, and 
more clearly for those farther away. Each child awaits, in the darkness, 
the faint voice which calls him, listening intently, ready to run with 
keenest joy toward the mysterious and much, desired call. 

The normal child may be blindfolded in the games where, for example, he 
is to recognise various weights, for this does help him to intensify and 
concentrate his attention upon the baric stimuli which he is to test. 
The blindfold adds to his pleasure, since he is proud of having been 
able to guess. 

The effect of these games upon deficient children is very different. 
When placed in darkness, they often go to sleep, or give themselves up 
to disordered acts. When the blindfold is used, they fix their attention 
upon the bandage itself, and change the exercise into a game, which does 
not fulfil the end we have in view with the exercise. 

We speak, it is true, of _games_ in education, but it must be made clear 
that we understand by this term a free activity, ordered to a definite 
end; not disorderly noise, which distracts the attention. 

The following pages of Itard give an idea of the patient experiments 
made by this pioneer in pedagogy. Their lack of success was due largely 
to errors which successive experiments have made it possible to correct, 
and in part to the mentality of his subject. 

"IV: In this last experiment it was not necessary, as in the one 
preceding, to demand that the pupil repeat the sounds which he 
perceived. This double work, distributing his attention, was outside the 
plane of my purpose, which was to educate each organ separately. I, 
therefore, limited myself to following the simple perception of sounds. 
To be certain of this result, I placed my pupil in front of me with his 
eyes blinded, his fists closed, and had him extend a finger every time 
that I made a sound. He understood this arrangement, and as soon as the 
sound reached his ear, the finger was raised, with a species of 
impetuosity, and often, with demonstrations of joy which left no doubt 
as to the pleasure the pupil took in these bizarre lessons. Indeed, 
whether it be that he found a real pleasure in the sound of the human 
voice, or that he had at last conquered the annoyance he at first felt 
on being deprived of the light for so long a time, the fact remains that 
more than once, during the intervals of rest, he came to me with his 
blindfold in his hand, holding it over his eyes, and jumping with joy 
when he felt my hands tying it about his head. 

"V: Having thoroughly assured myself, through such experiments as the 
one described above, that all sounds of the voice, whatever their 
intensity, were perceived by Vittorio, I proceeded to the attempt of 
making him compare these sounds. It was no longer a case of simply 
noting the sounds of the voice, but of perceiving the differences and of 
appreciating all these modifications and varieties of tone which go to 
make up the music of the word. Between this task and the preceding there 
stretched a prodigious difference, especially for a being whose 
development was dependent upon gradual effort, and who advanced toward 
civilisation only because I led thitherward so gently that he was 
unconscious of the progress. Facing the difficulty now presented, I had 
need to arm myself more strongly than ever with patience and gentleness, 
encouraged by the hope that once I had surmounted this obstacle all 
would have been done for the sense of hearing. 

"We began with the comparison of the vowel sounds, and here, too, made 
use of the hand to assure ourselves as to the result of our experiments. 
Each one of the fingers was made the sign of one of the five vowels. 
Thus the thumb represented A and was to be raised whenever this vowel 
was pronounced; the index finger was the sign for E; the middle finger 
for I; and so on. 

"VI: Not without fatigue, and not for a long time, was I able to give a 
distinct idea of the vowels. The first to be clearly distinguished was 
0, and then followed A. The three others presented much greater 
difficulty, and were for a long time confused. At last, however, the ear 
began to perceive distinctly, and, then, there returned in all their 
vivacity, those demonstrations of joy of which I have spoken. This 
continued until the pleasure taken in the lessons began to be 
boisterous, the sounds became confused, and the finger was raised 
indiscriminately. The outbursts of laughter became indeed so excessive 
that I lost patience! As soon as I placed the blindfold over his eyes 
the shouts of laughter began." 

Itard, finding it impossible to continue his educational work, decided 
to do away with the blindfold, and, indeed, the shouts ceased, but now 
the child's attention was distracted by the slightest movement about 
him. The blindfold was necessary, but the boy had to be made to 
understand that he must not laugh so much and that he was having a 
lesson. The corrective means of Itard and their touching results are 
worth reporting here! 

"I wished to intimidate him with my manner, not being able to do so with 
my glance. I armed myself with a tambourine and struck it lightly 
whenever he made a mistake. But he mistook this correction for a joke, 
and his joy became more noisy than ever. I then felt that I must make 
the correction a little more severe. It was understood, and I saw, with 
a mixture of pain and pleasure, revealed in the darkened face of this 
boy the fact that the feeling of injury surpassed the unhappiness of the 
blow. Tears came from beneath the blindfold, he urged me to take it off, 
but, whether from embarrassment or fear, or from some inner 
preoccupation, when freed from the bandage he still kept his eyes 
tightly closed. I could not laugh at the doleful expression of his face, 
the closed eyelids from between which trickled an occasional tear! Oh, 
in this moment, as in many others, ready to renounce my task, and 
feeling that the time I had consecrated to it was lost, how I regretted 
ever having known this boy, and bow severely I condemned the barren and 
inhuman curiosity of the men who in order to make scientific advancement 
had torn him away from a life, at least innocent and happy!" 

Here also is demonstrated the great educative superiority of scientific 
pedagogy for normal children. 

Finally, one particular of the technique consists in the _distribution 
of the stimuli_. This will be treated more fully in the description of 
the didactic system (materials) and of the sense education. Here it is 
enough to say that one should proceed from _few stimuli strongly 

contrasting, to many stimuli in gradual differentiation always more fine 
and imperceptible_. So, for example, we first present, together, red and 
blue; the shortest rod beside the longest; the thinnest beside the 
thickest, etc., passing from these to the delicately differing tints, 
and to the discrimination of very slight differences in length and 



The education of the tactile and the thermic senses go together, since 
the warm bath, and heat in general, render the tactile sense more acute. 
Since to exercise the tactile sense it is necessary to _touch_, bathing 
the hands in warm water has the additional advantage of teaching the 
child a principle of cleanliness — that of not touching objects with 
hands that are not clean. I therefore apply the general notions of 
practical life, regarding the washing of the hands, care of the nails, 
to the exercises preparatory to the discrimination of tactile stimuli. 

The limitation of the exercises of the tactile sense to the cushioned 
tips of the fingers, is rendered necessary by practical life. It must be 
made a necessary phase of _education_ because it prepares for a life in 
which man exercises and uses the tactile sense through the medium of 
these finger tips. Hence, I have the child wash his hands carefully with 
soap, in a little basin; and in another basin I have him rinse them in a 
bath of tepid water. Then I show him how to dry and rub his hands 
gently, in this way preparing for the regular bath. I next teach the 
child how to _touch_, that is, the manner in which he should touch 
surfaces. For this it is necessary to take the finger of the child and 
to draw _it very, very lightly_ over the surface. 

Another particular of the technique is to teach the child to hold his 
eyes closed while he touches, encouraging him to do this by telling him 
that he will be able to feel the differences better, and so leading him 
to distinguish, without the help of sight, the change of contact. He 
will quickly learn, and will show that he enjoys the exercise. Often 
after the introduction of such exercises, it is a common thing to have a 
child come to you, and, closing his eyes, touch with great delicacy the 
palm of your hand or the cloth of your dress, especially any silken or 
velvet trimmings. They do verily _exercise_ the tactile sense. They 
enjoy keenly touching any soft pleasant surface, and become exceedingly 
keen in discriminating between the differences in the sandpaper cards. 

The Didactic Material consists of; _a_ — a rectangular wooden board 
divided into two equal rectangles, one covered with very smooth paper, 
or having the wood polished until a smooth surface is obtained; the 
other covered with sandpaper, _b_ — a tablet like the preceding covered 
with alternating strips of smooth paper and sandpaper. 

I also make use of a collection of paper slips, varying through many 
grades from smooth, fine cardboard to coarsest sandpaper. The stuffs 
described elsewhere are also used in these lessons. 

As to the Thermic Sense, I use a set of little metal bowls, which are 

filled with water at different degrees of temperature. These I try to 

measure with a thermometer, so that there may be two containing water of 
the same temperature. 

Children playing a game with tablets of coloured silk] 


There are eight colours, and eight shades of each colour, making 
sixty-four gradations in all.] 

I have designed a set of utensils which are to be made of very light 
metal, and filled with water. These have covers, and to each is attached 
a thermometer. The bowl touched from the outside gives the desired 
impression of heat. 

I also have the children put their hands into cold, tepid, and warm 
water, an exercise which they find most diverting. I should like to 
repeat this exercise with the feet, but I have not bad an opportunity to 
make the trial. 

For the education of the baric sense (sense of weight), I use with great 
success little wooden tablets, six by eight centimetres, having a 
thickness of 1/2 centimetre. These tablets are in three different 
qualities of wood, wistaria, walnut, and pine. They weigh respectively, 
24, 18, and 12 grammes, making them differ in weight by 6 grammes. These 
tablets should be very smooth; if possible, varnished in such a way that 
every roughness shall be eliminated, but so that the natural colour of 
the wood shall remain. The child, _observing_ the colour, _knows_ that 
they are of differing weights, and this offers a means of controlling 
the exercise. He takes two of the tablets in his hands, letting them 
rest upon the palm at the base of his outstretched fingers. Then he 
moves his hands up and down in order to gauge the weight. This movement 
should come to be, little by little, almost insensible. We lead the 
child to make his distinction purely through the difference in weight, 
leaving out the guide of the different colours, and closing his eyes. He 
learns to do this of himself, and takes great interest in "guessing." 

The game attracts the attention of those near, who gather in a circle 
about the one who has the tablets, and who take turns in _guessing_. 
Sometimes the children spontaneously make use of the blindfold, taking 
turns, and interspersing the work with peals of joyful laughter. 


The education of this sense leads to the recognition of objects through 
feeling, that is, through the simultaneous help of the tactile and 
muscular senses. 

Taking this union as a basis, we have made experiments which have given 
marvellously successful educational results. I feel that for the help of 
teachers these exercises should be described. 

The first didactic material used by us is made up of the bricks and 
cubes of Froebel. We call the attention of the child to the form of the 
two solids, have him feel them carefully and accurately, with his eyes 
open, repeating some phrase serving to fix his attention upon the 
particulars of the forms presented. After this the child is told to 
place the cubes to the right, the bricks to the left, always feeling 
them, and without looking at them. Finally the exercise is repeated, by 
the child blindfolded. Almost all the children succeed in the exercise, 
and after two or three times, are able to eliminate every error. There 
are twenty-four of the bricks and cubes in all, so that the attention 
may be held for some time through this "game" — but undoubtedly the 
child's pleasure is greatly increased by the fact of his being watched 
by a group of his companions, all interested and eager. 

One day a directress called my attention to a little girl of three 
years, one of our very youngest pupils, who had repeated this exercise 
perfectly. We seated the little girl comfortably in an armchair, close 

to the table. Then, placing the twenty-four objects before her upon the 
table, we mixed them, and calling the child's attention to the 
difference in form, told her to place the cubes to the right and the 
bricks to the left. When she was blindfolded she began the exercise as 
taught by us, taking an object in each hand, feeling each and putting it 
in its right place. Sometimes she took two cubes, or two bricks, 
sometimes she found a brick in the right hand, a cube in the left. The 
child had to recognise the form, and to remember throughout the exercise 
the proper placing of the different objects. This seemed to me very 
difficult for a child of three years. 

But observing her I saw that she not only performed the exercise easily, 
but that the movements with which we had taught her to feel the form 
were superfluous. Indeed the instant she had taken the two objects in 
her hands, if it so happened that she had taken a cube with the left 
hand and a brick in the right, she _exchanged_ them _immediately_, and 
_then_ began the laborious feeling the form which we had taught and 
which she perhaps, believed to be obligatory. But the objects had been 
recognised by her through _the first light touch_, that is, the 
_recognition_ was _contemporaneous_ to _the taking_. 

Continuing my study of the subject, I found that this little girl was 
possessed of a remarkable _functional ambidexterity_ — I should be very 
glad to make a wider study of this phenomenon having in view the 
desirability of a simultaneous education of both hands. 

I repeated the exercise with other children and found that they 
_recognise_ the objects before feeling their contours. This was 
particularly true of the _little ones_. Our educational methods in this 
respect furnished a remarkable exercise in associative gymnastics, 
leading to a rapidity of judgment which was truly surprising and had 
the advantage of being perfectly adapted to very young children. 

These exercises of the stereognostic sense may be multiplied in many 
ways — they amuse the children who find delight in the recognition of a 
stimulus, as in the thermic exercises; for example — they may raise any 
small objects, toy soldiers, little balls, and, above all, the various 
_coins_ in common use. They come to discriminate between small forms 
varying very slightly, such as corn, wheat, and rice. 

They are very proud of _seeing without eyes_, holding out their hands 
and crying, "Here are my eyes!" "I can see with my hands!" Indeed, our 
little ones walking in the ways we have planned, make us marvel over 
their unforeseen progress, surprising us daily. Often, while they are 
wild with delight over some new conquest, — we watch, in deepest wonder 
and meditation. 


This phase of sense education is most difficult, and I have not as yet 
had any satisfactory results to record. I can only say that the 
exercises ordinarily used in the tests of psychometry do not seem to me 
to be practical for use with young children. 

The olfactory sense in children is not developed to any great extent, 
and this makes it difficult to attract their attention by means of this 
sense. We have made use of one test which has not been repeated often 
enough to form the basis of a method. We have the child smell fresh 
violets, and jessamine flowers. We then blindfold him, saying, "Now we 
are going to present you with flowers." A little friend then holds a 
bunch of violets under the child's nose, that he may guess the name of 
the flower. For greater or less intensify we present fewer flowers, or 
even one single blossom. 

are partly covered with sandpaper to give rough and smooth surfaces. 
(C) SOLID INSETS. With these the child, working by himself, learns to 

differentiate objects according to thickness, height, and size. 

_Copyright, 1912, by Carl R. ByoirJ 

[Illustration: (A) BROAD STAIR. (B) LONG STAIR. (C) TOWER. Blocks by 
which children are taught thickness, length, size. 

_Copyright, 1912 by Carl R. ByoirJ 

But this part of education, like that of the sense of taste, can be 
obtained by the child during the luncheon hour; — when he can learn to 
recognise various odours. 

As to taste, the method of touching the tongue with various solutions, 
bitter or acid, sweet, salty, is perfectly applicable. Children of four 
years readily lend themselves to such games, which serve as a reason for 
showing them how to rinse their mouths perfectly. The children enjoy 
recognising various flavours, and learn, after each test, to fill a 
glass with tepid water, and carefully rinse their months. In this way 
the exercise for the sense of taste is also an exercise in hygiene. 


_I. Differential Visual Perception of Dimensions_ 

_First._ Solid Insets: This material consists of three solid blocks of 
wood each 55 centimetres long, 6 centimetres high and 8 centimetres 
wide. Each block contains ten wooden pieces, set into corresponding 
holes. These pieces are cylindrical in shape and are to be handled by 
means of a little wooden or brass button which is fixed in the centre of 
the top. The cases of cylinders are in appearance much like the cases of 
weights used by chemists. In the first set of the series, the cylinders 
are all of equal height (55 millimetres) but differ in diameter. The 
smallest cylinder has a diameter of 1 centimetre, and the others 
increase in diameter at the rate of 1/2 centimetre. In the second set, 
the cylinders are all of equal diameter, corresponding to half the 
diameter of the largest cylinder in the preceding series — (27 
millimetres). The cylinders in this set differ in height, the first 
being merely a little disk only a centimetre high, the others increase 5 
millimetres each, the tenth one being 55 millimetres high. In the third 
set, the cylinders differ both in height and diameter, the first being 
1 centimetre high and 1 centimetre in diameter and each succeeding one 
increasing 1/2 centimetre in height and diameter. With these insets, the 
child, working by himself, learns to differentiate objects according to 
_thickness_, according to _height_, and according to _size_. 

In the schoolroom, these three sets may be played with by three children 
gathered about a table, an exchange of games adding variety. The child 
takes the cylinders out of the moulds, mixes them upon the table, and 
then puts each back into its corresponding opening. These objects are 
made of hard pine, polished and varnished. 

_Second._ Large pieces in graded dimensions: — There are three sets of 
blocks which come under this head, and it is desirable to have two of 
each of these sets in every school. 

(_a_) Thickness: this set consists of objects which vary from _thick_ to 
_thin_. There are ten quadrilateral prisms, the largest of which has a 
base of 10 centimetres, the others decreasing by 1 centimetre. The 
pieces are of equal length, 20 centimetres. These prisms are stained a 
dark brown. The child mixes them, scattering them over the little 
carpet, and then puts them in order, placing one against the other 
according to the graduations of thickness, observing that the length 
shall correspond exactly. These blocks, taken from the first to the 
last, form a species of _stair_, the steps of which grow broader toward 
the top. The child may begin with the thinnest piece or with the 
thickest, as suits his pleasure. The control of the exercise is not 

_certain_, as it was in the solid cylindrical insets. There, the large 
cylinders could not enter the small opening, the taller ones would 
project beyond the top of the block, etc. In this game of the Big Stair, 
the _eye_ of the child can easily recognise an error, since if he 
mistakes, the _stair_ is irregular, that is, there will be a high step, 
behind which, the step which should have ascended, decreases. 

(_b_) Length: Long and Short Objects: — This set consists of _ten rods_. 
These are four-sided, each face being 3 centimetres. The first rod is a 
metre long, and the last a decimetre. The intervening rods decrease, 
from first to last, 1 decimetre each. Each space of 1 decimetre is 
painted alternately _red_ or _blue_. The rods, when placed close to each 
other, must be so arranged that the colours correspond, forming so many 
transverse stripes — the whole set when arranged has the appearance of a 
rectangular triangle made up of organ pipes, which decrease on the side 
of the hypothenuse. 

The child arranges the rods which have first been scattered and mixed. 
He puts them together according to the graduation of length, and 
observes the correspondence of colours. This exercise also offers a very 
evident control of error, for the regularity of the decreasing length of 
the stairs along the hypothenuse will be altered if the rods are not 
properly placed. 

This most important set of blocks will have its principal application in 
arithmetic, as we shall see. With it, one may count from one to ten and 
may construct the addition and other tables, and it may constitute the 
first steps in the study of the decimal and metric system. 

(_c_) Size: Objects, Larger and Smaller: — This set is made up of ten 
wooden cubes painted in rose-coloured enamel. The largest cube has a 
base of 10 centimetres, the smallest, of 1 centimetre, the intervening 
ones decrease 1 centimetre each. A little green cloth carpet goes with 
these blocks. This may be of oilcloth or cardboard. The game consists of 
building the cubes up, one upon another, in the order of their 
dimensions, constructing a little tower of which the largest cube forms 
the base and the smallest the apex. The carpet is placed on the floor, 
and the cubes are scattered upon it. As the tower is built upon the 
carpet, the child goes through the exercise of kneeling, rising, etc. 
The control is given by the irregularity of the tower as it decreases 
toward the apex. A cube misplaced reveals itself, because it breaks the 
line. The most common error made by the children in playing with these 
blocks at first, is that of placing the second cube as the base and 
placing the first cube upon it, thus confusing the two largest blocks. I 
have noted that the same error was made by deficient children in the 
repeated trials I made with the tests of De Sanctis. At the question, 
"Which is the largest?" the child would take, not the largest, but that 
nearest it in size. 

Any of these three sets of blocks may be used by the children in a 
slightly different game. The pieces may be mixed upon a carpet or table, 
and then put in order upon another table at some distance. As he carries 
each piece, the child must walk without letting his attention wander, 
since he must remember the dimensions of the piece for which he is to 
look among the mixed blocks. 

The games played in this way are excellent for children of four or five 
years; while the simple work of arranging the pieces in order upon the 
same carpet where they have been mixed is more adapted to the little 
ones between three and four years of age. The construction of the tower 
with the pink cubes is very attractive to little ones of less than three 
years, who knock it down and build it up time after time. 


_Copyright, 1912, by Carl R. ByoirJ 

[Illustration: (A) GEOMETRIC INSETS OF WOOD, AND FRAME. The frame 
furnishes the control necessary for exactness of work. (B) CABINET. 
(For storing geometric inset frames.) 

_Copyright, 1912, by Carl R. ByoirJ 

_II. Differential Visual Perception of Form and Visual-tactile-muscular 

_Didactic Material. _ Plane geometric _insets of wood_: The idea of these 
insets goes back to Itard and was also applied by SEguin. 

In the school for deficients I had made and applied these insets in the 
same form used by my illustrious predecessors. In these there were two 
large tablets of wood placed one above the other and fastened together. 
The lower board was left solid, while the upper one was perforated by 
various geometric figures. The game consisted in placing in these 
openings the corresponding wooden figures which, in order that they 
might be easily handled, were furnished with a little brass knob. 

In my school for deficients, I had multiplied the games calling for 
these insets, and distinguished between those used to teach colour and 
those used to teach form. The insets for teaching colour were all 
circles, those used for teaching form were all painted blue. I had great 
numbers of these insets made in graduations of colour and in an infinite 
variety of form. This material was most expensive and exceedingly 

In many later experiments with normal children, I have, after many 
trials, completely excluded the plane geometric insets as an aid to the 
teaching of colour, since this material offers no control of errors, the 
child's task being that of _covering_ the forms before him. 

I have kept the geometric insets, but have given them a new and original 
aspect. The form in which they are now made was suggested to me by a 
visit to the splendid manual training school in the Reformatory of St. 
Michael in Rome. I saw there wooden models of geometric figures, which 
could be set into corresponding frames or placed above corresponding 
forms. The scope of these materials was to lead to exactness in the 
making of the geometric pieces in regard to control of dimension and 
form; the _frame_ furnishing the _control_ necessary for the exactness 
of the work. 

This led me to think of making modifications in my geometric insets, 
making use of the frame as well as of the inset I therefore made a 
rectangular tray, which measured 30 v 20 centimetres. This tray was 
painted a dark blue and was surrounded by a dark frame. It was furnished 
with a cover so arranged that it would contain six of the square frames 
with their insets. The advantage of this tray is that the forms may be 
changed, thus allowing us to present any combination we choose. I have a 
number of blank wooden squares which make it possible to present as few 
as two or three geometric forms at a time, the other spaces being filled 
in by the blanks. To this material I have added a set of white cards, 10 
centimetres square. These cards form a series presenting the geometric 
forms in other aspects. In the _first_ of the series, the form is cut 
from blue paper and mounted upon the card. In the _second_ box of cards, 
the _contour_ of the same figures is mounted in the same blue paper, 
forming an outline one centimetre in width. On the _third_ set of cards 
the contour of the geometric form is _outlined by a blank line_. We have 
then the tray, the collection of small frames with their corresponding 
insets, and the set of the cards in three series. 

[Illustration: Some of the Card Forms used in the exercises with the 
three series of cards. 

_Copyright, 1912, by Carl R. ByoirJ 

I also designed a case containing six trays. The front of this box may 
be lowered when the top is raised and the trays may be drawn out as one 
opens the drawers of a desk. Each _drawer_ contains six of the small 
frames with their respective insets. In the first drawer I keep the four 
plain wooden squares and two frames, one containing a rhomboid, and the 
other a trapezoid. In the second, I have a series consisting of a 
square, and five rectangles of the same length, but varying in width. 
The third drawer contains six circles which diminish in diameter. In the 
fourth are six triangles, in the fifth, five polygons from a pentagon to 
a decagon. The sixth drawer contains six curved figures (an ellipse, an 
oval, etc., and a flower-like figure formed by four crossed arcs). 

_Exercise with the Insets. _ This exercise consists in presenting to the 
child the large frame or tray in which we may arrange the figures as we 
wish to present them. We proceed to take out the insets, mix them upon 
the table, and then invite the child to put them back in place. This 
game may be played by even the younger children and holds the attention 
for a long period, though not for so long a time as the exercise with 
the cylinders. Indeed, I have never seen a child repeat this exercise 
more than five or six times. The child, in fact, expends much energy 
upon this exercise. He must _recognise_ the form and must look at it 

At first many of the children only succeed in placing the insets after 
many attempts, trying for example to place a triangle in a trapezoid, 
then in a rectangle, etc. Or when they have taken a rectangle, and 
recognise where it should go, they will still place it with the long 
side of the inset across the short side of the opening, and will only 
after many attempts, succeed in placing it. After three or four 
successive lessons, the child recognises the geometric figures with 
_extreme_ facility and places the insets with a security which has a 
tinge of nonchalance, or of _slight contempt for an exercise that is too 
easy_. This is the moment in which the child may be led to a methodical 
observation of the forms. We change the forms in the frame and pass from 
contrasted frames to analogous ones. The exercise is easy for the child, 
who habituates himself to placing the pieces in their frames without 
errors or false attempts. 

The first period of these exercises is at the time when the child is 
obliged to make repeated _trials_ with figures that are strongly 
contrasted in form. The _recognition_ is greatly helped by associating 
with the visual sense the muscular-tactile perception of the forms. I 
have the child touch [12] the contour of the piece with the _index 
finger_ of _his right hand_, and then have him repeat this with the 
contour of the frame into which the pieces must fit. We succeed in 
making this a _habit_ with the child. This is very easily attained, 
since all children love to _touch_ things. I have already learned, 
through my work with deficient children, that among the various forms of 
sense memory that of the muscular sense is the most precocious. Indeed, 
many children who have not arrived at the point of recognising a _figure 
by looking at it_, could recognise it by _touching it_, that is, by 
computing the movements necessary to the following of its contour. The 
same is true of the greater number of normal children; — confused as to 
where to place a figure, they turn it about trying in vain to fit it in, 
yet as soon as they have touched the two contours of the piece and its 
frame, they succeed in placing it perfectly. Undoubtedly, the 
association of the _muscular-tactile_ sense with that of _vision_, aids 
in a most remarkable way the perception of forms and fixes them in 

[12] Here and elsewhere throughout the book the word "touch" is 
used not only to express contact between the fingers and an 
object, but the moving of fingers or hand over an object or 
its outline. 

In such exercises, the control is absolute, as it was in the solid 
insets. The figure can only enter the corresponding frame. This makes it 
possible for the child to work by himself, and to accomplish a genuine 

sensory auto-education, in the visual perception of form. 

_Exercise with the three series of cards. First series. _ We give the 
child the wooden forms and the cards upon which the white figure is 
mounted. Then we mix the cards upon the table; the child must arrange 
them in a line upon his table (which he loves to do), and then place the 
corresponding wooden pieces upon the cards. Here the control lies in the 
eyes. The child must _recognise_ this figure, and place the wooden piece 
upon it so perfectly that it will cover and hide the paper figure. The 
eye of the child here corresponds to the frame, which _materially_ led 
him at first to bring the two pieces together. In addition to covering 
the figure, the child is to accustom himself to _touching_ the contour 
of the mounted figures as a part of the exercise (the child always 
voluntarily follows those movements); and after he has placed the wooden 
inset he again touches the contour, adjusting with his finger the 
superimposed piece until it exactly covers the form beneath. 

_Second Series. _ We give a number of cards to the child together with 
the corresponding wooden insets. In this second series, the figures are 
repeated by an outline of blue paper. The child through these exercises 
is passing gradually from the _concrete_ to the _abstract_. At first, he 
handled only _solid objects_. He then passed to a _plane figure_, that 
is, to the plane which in itself does not exist. He is now passing to 
the _line_, but this line does not represent for him the abstract 
contour of a plane figure. It is to him the _path which he has so often 
followed with his index finger_; this line is the _trace_ of a 
_movement_. Following again the contour of the figure with his finger, 
the child receives the impression of actually leaving a trace, for the 
figure is covered by his finger and appears as he moves it. It is the 
eye now which guides the movement, but it must be remembered that this 
movement was _already prepared_ for when the child touched the contours 
of the solid pieces of wood. 

_Third Series. _ We now present to the child the cards upon which the 
figures are drawn in black, giving him, as before, the corresponding 
wooden pieces. Here, he has actually passed to the _line_; that is, to 
an abstraction, yet here, too, there is the idea of the result of a 
movement . 

This cannot be, it is true, the trace left by the finger, but, for 
example, that of a pencil which is guided by the hand in the same 
movements made before. These geometric figures in simple outline _have 
grown out_ of a gradual series of representations which were concrete to 
vision and touch. These representations return to the mind of the child 
when he performs the exercise of superimposing the corresponding wooden 

_III. Differential Visual Perception of Colours: — Education of the 
Chromatic Sense_ 

In many of our _lessons on the colours_, we make use of pieces of 
brightly-coloured stuffs, and of balls covered with wool of different 
colours. The didactic material for the _education of the chromatic_ 
sense is the following, which I have established after a long series of 
tests made upon normal children, (in the institute for deficients, I 
used as I have said above, the geometric insets). The present material 
consists of small flat tablets, which are wound with coloured wool or 
silk. These tablets have a little wooden border at each end which 
prevents the silk-covered card from touching the table. The child is 
also taught to take hold of the piece by these wooden extremities, so 
that he need not soil the delicate colours. In this way, we are able to 
use this material for a long time without having to renew it. 

GARMENTS. (D) HOOKS AND EYES. Frames illustrating the different 
processes of dressing and undressing. 

_Copy right, 1912, by Carl R. ByoirJ 

Used for educating the chromatic sense. The tablets are shown in the 
boxes in which they are kept. 

_Copyright, 1912, by Carl R. ByoirJ 

I have chosen eight tints, and each one has with it eight gradations of 
different intensity of colour. There are, therefore, sixty-four 
colour-tablets in all. The eight tints selected are _black_ (_from grey 
to white_), _red_, _orange_, _yellow_, _green_, _blue_, _violet_ and 
_brown_. We have duplicate boxes of these sixty-four colours, giving us 
two of each exercise. The entire set, therefore, consists of one hundred 
twenty-eight tablets. They are contained in two boxes, each divided into 
eight equal compartments so that one box may contain sixty-four tablets. 

_Exercises with the Colour-tablets ._ For the earliest of these 
exercises, we select three strong colours: for example, _red_, _blue_, 
and _yellow_, in pairs. These six tablets we place upon the table before 
the child. Showing him one of the colours, we ask him to find its 
duplicate among the mixed tablets upon the table. In this way, we have 
him arrange the colour-tablets in a column, two by two, pairing them 
according to colour. 

The number of tablets in this game may be increased until the eight 
colours, or sixteen tablets, are given at once. When the strongest tones 
have been presented, we may proceed to the presentation of lighter 
tones, in the same way. Finally, we present two or three tablets of the 
same colour, but of different tone, showing the child how to arrange 
these in order of gradation. In this way, the eight gradations are 
finally presented. 

Following this, we place before the child the eight gradations of two 
different colours (red and blue); he is shown how to separate the groups 
and then arrange each group in gradation. As we proceed we offer groups 
of more nearly related colours; for example, blue and violet, yellow and 
orange, etc. 

In one of the "Children's Houses," I have seen the following game played 
with the greatest success and interest, and with surprising _rapidity_. 
The directress places upon a table, about which the children are seated, 
as many colour groups as there are children, for example, three. She 
then calls each child's attention to the colour each is to select, or 
which she assigns to him. Then, she mixes the three groups of colours 
upon the table. Each child takes rapidly from the mixed heap of tablets 
all the gradations of his colour, and proceeds to arrange the tablets, 
which, when thus placed in a line, give the appearance of a strip of 
shaded ribbon. 

In another "House," I have seen the children take the entire box, empty 
the sixty-four colour-tablets upon the table and after carefully mixing 
them, rapidly collect them into groups and arrange them in gradation, 
constructing a species of little carpet of delicately coloured and 
intermingling tints. The children very quickly acquire an ability before 
which we stand amazed. Children of three years are able to put all of 
the tints into gradation. 

_Experiments in Colour-memory. _ Experiments in colour-memory may be made 
by showing the child a tint, allowing him to look at it as long as he 
will, and then asking him to go to a distant table upon which all of the 
colours are arranged and to select from among them the tint similar to 
the one at which he has looked. The children succeed in this game 
remarkably, committing only slight errors. Children of five years enjoy 
this immensely, taking great pleasure in comparing the two spools and 
judging as to whether they have chosen correctly. 

At the beginning of my work, I made use of an instrument invented by 
Pizzoli. This consisted of a small brown disk having a half-moon shape 
opening at the top. Various colours were made to pass behind this 
opening, by means of a rotary disk which was composed of strips of 
various colours. The teacher called the attention of the child to a 
certain colour, then turned the disk, asking him to indicate the same 
disk when it again showed itself in the opening. This exercise rendered 
the child inactive, preventing him from controlling the material. It is 
not, therefore, an instrument which can promote the _education_ of the 


It would be desirable to have in this connection the didactic material 
used for the "auricular education" in the principal institutions for 
deaf mutes in Germany and America. These exercises are an introduction 
to the acquisition of language, and serve in a very special way to 
centre the children's discriminative attention upon the "modulations of 
the sound of the human voice." 

With very young children linguistic education must occupy a most 
important place. Another aim of such exercises is to educate the ear of 
the child to noises so that he shall accustom himself to distinguish 
every slight noise and compare it with _sounds_, coming to resent harsh 
or disordered noises. Such sense education has a value in that it 
exercises Esthetic taste, and may be applied in a most noteworthy way 
to practical discipline. We all know how the younger children disturb 
the order of the room by shouts, and by the noise of over-turned 

The rigorous scientific education of the sense of hearing is not 
practically applicable to the didactic method. This is true because the 
child cannot _exercise himself through his own activity_ as he does for 
the other senses. Only one child at a time can work with any instrument 
producing the gradation of sounds. In other words, _absolute silence_ is 
necessary for the discrimination of sounds. 


Signorina Maccheroni, Directress, first of the "Children's House" in 
Milan and later in the one in Franciscan Convent at Rome, has invented 
and has had manufactured a series of thirteen bells hung upon a wooden 
frame. These bells are to all appearances, identical, but the vibrations 
brought about by a blow of a hammer produce the following thirteen 
notes : 

The set consists of a double series of thirteen bells and there are four 
hammers. Having struck one of the bells in the first series, the child 
must find the corresponding sound in the second. This exercise presents 
grave difficulty, as the child does not know how to strike each time 
with the same force, and therefore produces sounds which vary in 
intensity. Even when the teacher strikes the bells, the children have 
difficulty in distinguishing between sounds. So we do not feel that this 
instrument in its present form is entirely practical. 

For the discrimination of sounds, we use Pizzoli's series of little 
whistles. For the gradation of noises, we use small boxes filled with 
different substances, more or less fine (sand or pebbles). The noises 
are produced by shaking the boxes. 

In the lessons for the sense of hearing I proceed as follows: I have the 
teachers establish silence in the usual way and then I _continue_ the 
work, making the silence more profound. I say, "St! St!" in a series of 
modulations, now sharp and short, now prolonged and light as a whisper. 
The children, little by little, become fascinated by this. Occasionally 
I say, "More silent still — more silent." 

I then begin the sibilant St! St! again, making it always lighter and 
repeating "More silent still," in a barely audible voice. Then I say 
still in a low whisper, "Now, I hear the clock, now I can hear the 
buzzing of a fly's wings, now I can hear the whisper of the trees in the 

The children, ecstatic with joy, sit in such absolute and complete 
silence that the room seems deserted; then I whisper, "Let us close our 
eyes." This exercise repeated, so habituates the children to immobility 
and to absolute silence that, when one of them interrupts, it needs only 
a syllable, a gesture to call him back immediately to perfect order. 

In the silence, we proceeded to the production of sounds and noises, 
making these at first strongly contrasted, then, more nearly alike. 
Sometimes we present the comparisons between noise and sound. I believe 
that the best results can be obtained with the primitive means employed 
by Itard in 1805. He used the drum and the bell. His plan was a 
graduated series of drums for the noises, — or, better, for the heavy 
harmonic sounds, since these belong to a musical instrument, — and a 
series of bells. The diapason, the whistles, the boxes, are not 
attractive to the child, and do not educate the sense of hearing as do 
these other instruments. There is an interesting suggestion in the fact 
that the two great human institutions, that of hate (war), and that of 
love (religion), have adopted these two opposite instruments, the drum 
and the bell. 

I believe that after establishing silence it would be educational to 
ring well-toned bells, now calm and sweet, now clear and ringing, 
sending their vibrations through the child's whole body. And when, 
besides the education of the ear, we have produced a _vibratory_ 
education of the whole body, through these wisely selected sounds of the 
bells, giving a peace that pervades the very fibres of his being, then I 
believe these young bodies would be sensitive to crude noises, and the 
children would come to dislike, and to cease from making, disordered and 
ugly noises. 

In this way one whose ear has been trained by a musical education 
suffers from strident or discordant notes. I need give no illustration 
to make clear the importance of such education for the masses in 
childhood. The new generation would be more calm, turning away from the 
confusion and the discordant sounds, which strike the ear to-day in one 
of the vile tenements where the poor live, crowded together, left by us 
to abandon themselves to the lower, more brutal human instincts. 

_Musical Education_ 

This must be carefully guided by method. In general, we see little 
children pass by the playing of some great musicians as an animal would 
pass. They do not perceive the delicate complexity of sounds. The street 
children gather about the organ grinder, crying out as if to hail with 
joy the _noises_ which will come instead of sounds. 

For the musical education we must _create instruments_ as well as music. 
The scope of such an instrument in addition to the discrimination of 
sounds, is to awaken a sense of rhythm, and, so to speak, to give the 
_impulse_ toward calm and co-ordinate movements to those muscles already 
vibrating in the peace and tranquillity of immobility. 

I believe that stringed instruments (perhaps some very much simplified 
harp) would be the most convenient. The stringed instruments together 
with the drum and the bells form the trio of the classic instruments of 
humanity. The harp is the instrument of "the intimate life of the 
individual." Legend places it in the hand of Orpheus, folk-lore puts it 
into fairy hands, and romance gives it to the princess who conquers the 
heart of a wicked prince. 

The teacher who turns her back upon her scholars to play, (far too often 

badly), will never be the _educator_ of their musical sense. 

The child needs to be charmed in every way, by the glance as well as by 
the pose. The teacher who, bending toward them, gathering them about 
her, and leaving them free to stay or go, touches the chords, in a 
simple rhythm, puts herself in communication with them, _in relation 
with their very souls_. So much the better if this touch can be 
accompanied by her _voice_, and the children left free to follow her, no 
one being obliged to sing. In this way she can select as "adapted to 
education," those songs which were followed by all the children. So she 
may regulate the complexity of rhythm to various ages, for she will see 
now only the older children following the rhythm, now, also the little 
ones. At any rate, I believe that simple and primitive instruments are 
the ones best adapted to the awakening of music in the soul of the 
little child. 

I have tried to have the Directress of the "Children's House" in Milan, 
who is a gifted musician, make a number of trials, and experiments, 
with a view to finding out more about the muscular capacity of young 
children. She has made many trials with the pianoforte, observing how 
the children _are not sensitive_ to the musical _tone_, but only to the 
_rhythm_. On a basis of rhythm she arranged simple little dances, with 
the intention of studying the influence of the rhythm itself upon the 
co-ordination of muscular movements. She was greatly surprised to 
discover the _educational disciplinary_ effect of such music. Her 
children, who had been led with great wisdom and art through liberty to 
a _spontaneous_ ordering of their acts and movements, had nevertheless 
lived in the streets and courts, and had an almost universal habit of 

Being a faithful follower of the method of liberty, and not considering 
that _jumping_ was a wrong act, she had never corrected them. 

She now noticed that as she multiplied and repeated the rhythm 
exercises, the children little by little left off their ugly jumping, 
until finally it was a thing of the past. The directress one day asked 
for an explanation of this change of conduct. Several little ones looked 
at her without saying anything. The older children gave various replies, 
whose meaning was the same. 

"It isn't nice to jump." 

"Jumping is ugly." 

"It's rude to jump." 

This was certainly a beautiful triumph for our method! 

This experience shows that it is possible to educate the child's 
_muscular sense_, and it shows how exquisite the refinement of this 
sense may be as it develops in relation to the _muscular memory_, and 
side by side with the other forms of sensory memory. 

_Tests for Acuteness of Hearing_ 

The only entirely successful experiments which we have made so far in 
the "Children's Houses" are those of the _clock_, and of the _lowered_ 
or whispered _voice_. The trial is purely empirical, and does not lend 
itself to the measuring of the sensation, but it is, however, most 
useful in that it helps us to an approximate knowledge of the child's 
auditory acuteness. 

The exercise consists in calling attention, when perfect silence has 
been established, to the ticking of the clock, and to all the little 
noises not commonly audible to the ear. Finally we call the little ones, 
one by one from an adjoining room, pronouncing each name in a low voice. 
In preparing for such an exercise it is necessary to _teach_ the 

children the real meaning of _silence_. 

Toward this end I have several _games_ of _silence_, which help in a 
surprising way to strengthen the remarkable discipline of our children. 

I call the children's attention to myself, telling them to see how 
silent I can be. I assume different positions; standing, sitting, and 
maintain each pose _silently, without movement_. A finger moving can 
produce a noise, even though it be imperceptible. We may breathe so that 
we may be heard. But I maintain _absolute_ silence, which is not an easy 
thing to do. I call a child, and ask him to do as I am doing. He adjusts 
his feet to a better position, and this makes a noise! He moves an arm, 
stretching it out upon the arm of his chair; it is a noise. His 
breathing is not altogether silent, it is not tranquil, absolutely 
unheard as mine is. 

During these manoeuvres on the part of the child, and while my brief 
comments are followed by intervals of immobility and silence, the other 
children are watching and listening. Many of them are interested in the 
fact, which they have never noticed before; namely, that we make so many 
noises of which we are not conscious, and that there are _degrees of 
silence_. There is an absolute silence where nothing, _absolutely 
nothing_ moves. They watch me in amazement when I stand in the middle of 
the room, so quietly that it is really as if "I were not." Then they 
strive to imitate me, and to do even better. I call attention here and 
there to a foot that moves, almost inadvertently. The attention of the 
child is called to every part of his body in an anxious eagerness to 
attain to immobility. 

When the children are trying in this way, there is established a silence 
very different from that which we carelessly call by that name. 

It seems as if life gradually vanishes, and that the room becomes, 
little by little, empty, as if there were no longer anyone in it. Then 
we begin to hear the tick-tock of the clock, and this sound seems to 
grow in intensity as the silence becomes absolute. From without, from 
the court which before seemed silent, there come varied noises, a bird 
chirps, a child passes. The children sit fascinated by that silence as 
if by some conquest of their own. "Here," says the directress, "here 
there is no longer anyone; the children have all gone away." 

Having arrived at that point, we darken the windows, and tell the 
children to close their eyes, resting their heads upon their hands. They 
assume this position, and in the darkness the absolute silence returns. 

"Now listen," we say. "A soft voice is going to call your name." Then 
going to a room behind the children, and standing within the open door, 
I call in a low voice, lingering over the syllables as if I were 
calling from across the mountains. This voice, almost occult, seems to 
reach the heart and to call to the soul of the child. Each one as he is 
called, lifts his head, opens his eyes as if altogether happy, then 
rises, silently seeking not to move the chair, and walks on the tips of 
his toes, so quietly that he is scarcely heard. Nevertheless his step 
resounds in the silence, and amid the immobility which persists. 

Having reached the door, with a joyous face, he leaps into the room, 
choking back soft outbursts of laughter. Another child may come to hide 
his face against my dress, another, turning, will watch his companions 
sitting like statues silent and waiting. The one who is called feels 
that he is privileged, that he has received a gift, a prize. And yet 
they know that all will be called, "beginning with the most silent one 
in all the room." So each one tries to merit by his perfect silence the 
certain call. I once saw a little one of three years try to suffocate a 
sneeze, and succeed! She held her breath in her little breast, and 
resisted, coming out victorious. A most surprising effort! 

This game delights the little ones beyond measure. Their intent faces, 
their patient immobility, reveal the enjoyment of a great pleasure. In 

the beginning, when the soul of the child was unknown to me, I had 
thought of showing them sweetmeats and little toys, promising to give 
them to the ones who were _called_, supposing that the gifts would be 
necessary to persuade the child to make the necessary effort. But I soon 
found that this was unnecessary. 

The children, after they had made the effort necessary to maintain 
silence, enjoyed the sensation, took pleasure in the _silence_ itself. 
They were like ships safe in a tranquil harbour, happy in having 
experienced something new, and to have won a victory over themselves. 
This, indeed, was their recompense. They _forgot_ the promise of sweets, 
and no longer cared to take the toys, which I had supposed would attract 
them. I therefore abandoned that useless means, and saw, with surprise, 
that the game became constantly more perfect, until even children of 
three years of age remained immovable in the silence throughout the time 
required to call the entire forty children out of the room! It was then 
that I learned that the soul of the child has its own reward, and its 
peculiar spiritual pleasures. After such exercises it seemed to me that 
the children came closer to me, certainly they became more obedient, 
more gentle and sweet. We had, indeed, been isolated from the world, and 
had passed several minutes during which the communion between us was 
very close, I wishing for them and calling to them, and they receiving 
in the perfect silence the voice which was directed personally toward 
each one of them, crowning each in turn with happiness. 

_A Lesson in Silence_ 

I am about to describe a lesson which _proved_ most successful in 
teaching the perfect silence to which it is possible to attain. One day 
as I was about to enter one of the "Children's Houses," I met in the 
court a mother who held in her arms her little baby of four months. The 
little one was swaddled, as is still the custom among the people of 
Rome — an infant thus in the swaddling bands is called by us a _pupa_. 
This tranquil little one seemed the incarnation of peace. I took her in 
my arms, where she lay quiet and good. Still holding her I went toward 
the schoolroom, from which the children now ran to meet me. They always 
welcomed me thus, throwing their arms about me, clinging to my skirts, 
and almost tumbling me over in their eagerness. I smiled at them, 
showing them the "_pupa_." They understood and skipped about me looking 
at me with eyes brilliant with pleasure, but did not touch me through 
respect for the little one that I held in my arms. 

I went into the schoolroom with the children clustered about me. We sat 
down, I seating myself in a large chair instead of, as usual, in one of 
their little chairs. In other words, I seated myself solemnly. They 
looked at my little one with a mixture of tenderness and joy. None of us 
had yet spoken a word. Finally I said to them, "I have brought you a 
little teacher." Surprised glances and laughter. "A little teacher, yes, 
because none of you know how to be quiet as she does." At this all the 
children changed their positions and became quiet. "Yet no one holds his 
limbs and feet as quietly as she." Everyone gave closer attention to the 
position of limbs and feet. I looked at them smiling, "Yes, but they can 
never be as quiet as hers. You move a little bit, but she, not at all; 
none of you can be as quiet as she." The children looked serious. The 
idea of the superiority of the little teacher seemed to have reached 
them. Some of them smiled, and seemed to say with their eyes that the 
swaddling bands deserved all the merit. "Not one of you can be silent, 
voiceless as she." General silence. "It is not possible to be as silent 
as she, because, — listen to her breathing — how delicate it is; come near 
to her on your tiptoes." 

Several children rose, and came slowly forward on tiptoe, bending toward 
the baby. Great silence. "None of you can breathe so silently as she." 
The children looked about amazed, they had never thought that even when 
sitting quietly they were making noises, and that the silence of a 
little babe is more profound than the silence of grown people. They 
almost ceased to breathe. I rose. "Go out quietly, quietly," I said, 

"walk on the tips of your toes and make no noise." Following them I 
said, "And yet I still hear some sounds, but she, the baby, walks with 
me and makes no sound. She goes out silently!" The children smiled. They 
understood the truth and the jest of my words. I went to the open 
window, and placed the baby in the arms of the mother who stood watching 

The little one seemed to have left behind her a subtle charm which 
enveloped the souls of the children. Indeed, there is in nature nothing 
more sweet than the silent breathing of a new-born babe. There is an 
indescribable majesty about this human life which in repose and silence 
gathers strength and newness of life. Compared to this, Wordsworth's 
description of the silent peace of nature seems to lose its force. "What 
calm, what quiet! The one sound the drip of the suspended oar." The 
children, too, felt the poetry and beauty in the peaceful silence of a 
new-born human life. 



I do not claim to have brought to perfection the method of sense 
training as applied to young children. I do believe, however, that it 
opens a new field for psychological research, promising rich and 
valuable results. 

Experimental psychology has so far devoted its attention to _perfecting 
the instruments by which the sensations are measured_. No one has 
attempted the _methodical_ preparation _of the individual for the 
sensations_. It is my belief that the development of psychometry will 
owe more to the attention given to the preparation of the _individual_ 
than to the perfecting of the _instrument_. 

But putting aside this purely scientific side of the question, the 
_education of the senses_ must be of the greatest _pedagogical_ 
interest . 

Our aim in education in general is two-fold, biological and social. From 
the biological side we wish to help the natural development of the 
individual, from the social standpoint it is our aim to prepare the 
individual for the environment. Under this last head technical education 
may be considered as having a place, since it teaches the individual to 
make use of his surroundings. The education of the senses is most 
important from both these points of view. The development of the senses 
indeed precedes that of superior intellectual activity and the child 
between three and seven years is in the period of formation. 

We can, then, help the development of the senses while they are in this 
period. We may graduate and adapt the stimuli just as, for example, it 
is necessary to help the formation of language before it shall be 
completely developed. 

All education of little children must be governed by this principle — to 
help the natural _psychic_ and _physical development_ of the child. 

The other aim of education (that of adapting the individual to the 
environment) should be given more attention later on when the period of 
intense development is past. 

These two phases of education are always interlaced, but one or the 
other has prevalence according to the age of the child. Now, the period 
of life between the ages of three and seven years covers a period of 
rapid physical development. It is the time for the formation of the 
sense activities as related to the intellect The child in this age 

develops his senses. His attention is further attracted to the 
environment under the form of passive curiosity. 

The stimuli, and not yet the reasons for things, attract his attention. 
This is, therefore, the time when we should methodically direct the 
sense stimuli, in such a way that the sensations which he receives shall 
develop in a rational way. This sense training will prepare the ordered 
foundation upon which he may build up a clear and strong mentality. 

It is, besides all this, possible with the education of the senses to 
discover and eventually to correct defects which to-day pass unobserved 
in the school. Now the time comes when the defect manifests itself in an 
evident and irreparable inability to make use of the forces of life 
about him. (Such defects as deafness and near-sightedness.) This 
education, therefore, is physiological and prepares directly for 
intellectual education, perfecting the organs of sense, and the 
nerve-paths of projection and association. 

But the other part of education, the adaptation of the individual to his 
environment, is indirectly touched. We prepare with our method the 
infancy of the _humanity of our time_. The men of the present 
civilisation are preeminently observers of their environment because 
they must utilise to the greatest possible extent all the riches of this 

The art of to-day bases itself, as in the days of the Greeks, upon 
observation of the truth. 

The progress of positive science is based upon its observations and all 
its discoveries and their applications, which in the last century have 
so transformed our civic environment, were made by following the same 
line — that is, they have come through observation. We must therefore 
prepare the new generation for this attitude, which has become necessary 
in our modern civilised life. It is an indispensable means — man must be 
so armed if he is to continue efficaciously the work of our progress. 

We have seen the discovery of the Roentgen Rays born of observation. To 
the same methods are due the discovery of Hertzian waves, and vibrations 
of radium, and we await wonderful things from the Marconi telegraph. 
While there has been no period in which thought has gained so much from 
positive study as the present century, and this same century promises 
new light in the field of speculative philosophy and upon spiritual 
questions, the theories upon the matter have themselves led to most 
interesting metaphysical concepts. We may say that in preparing the 
method of observation, we have also prepared the way leading to 
spiritual discovery. 

The education of the senses makes men observers, and not only 
accomplishes the general work of adaptation to the present epoch of 
civilisation, but also prepares them directly for practical life. We 
have had up to the present time, I believe, a most imperfect idea of 
what is necessary in the practical living of life. We have always 
started from ideas, and have _proceeded thence_ to _motor activities_; 
thus, for example, the method of education has always been to teach 
intellectually, and then to have the child follow the principles he has 
been taught. In general, when we are teaching, we talk about the object 
which interests us, and then we try to lead the scholar, when he has 
understood, to perform some kind of work with the object itself; but 
often the scholar who has understood the idea finds great difficulty in 
the execution of the work which we give him, because we have left out of 
his education a factor of the utmost importance, namely, the perfecting 
of the senses. I may, perhaps, illustrate this statement with a few 
examples. We ask the cook to buy only 'fresh fish.' She understands the 
idea, and tries to follow it in her marketing, but, if the cook has not 
been trained to recognise through sight and smell the signs which 
indicate freshness in the fish, she will not know how to follow the 
order we have given her. 

Such a lack will show itself much more plainly in culinary operations. A 
cook may be trained in book matters, and may know exactly the recipes 
and the length of time advised in her cook book; she may be able to 
perform all the manipulations necessary to give the desired appearance 
to the dishes, but when it is a question of deciding from the odor of 
the dish the exact moment of its being properly cooked, or with the eye, 
or the taste, the time at which she must put in some given condiment, 
then she will make a mistake if her senses have not been sufficiently 

She can only gain such ability through long practice, and such practice 
on the part of the cook is nothing else than a _belated education_ of 
the senses — an education which often can never be properly attained by 
the adult. Thia is one reason why it is so difficult to find good cooks. 

Something of the same kind is true of the physician, the student of 
medicine who studies theoretically the character of the pulse, and sits 
down by the bed of the patient with the best will in the world to read 
the pulse, but, if his fingers do not know how to read the sensations 
his studies will have been in vain. Before he can become a doctor, he 
must gain a _capacity for discriminating between sense stimuli_. 

The same may be said for the _pulsations_ of the _heart_, which the 
student studies in theory, but which the ear can learn to distinguish 
only through practice. 

We may say the same for all the delicate vibrations and movements, in 
the reading of which the hand of the physician is too often deficient. 
The thermometer is the more indispensable to the physician the more his 
sense of touch is unadapted and untrained in the gathering of the 
thermic stimuli. It is well understood that the physician may be 
learned, and most intelligent, without being a good practitioner, and 
that to make a good practitioner long practice is necessary. In reality, 
this _long practice_ is nothing else than a tardy, and often 
inefficient, _exercise_ of the senses. After he has assimilated the 
brilliant theories, the physician sees himself forced to the unpleasant 
labor of the semiography, that is to making a record of the symptoms 
revealed by his observation of and experiments with the patients. He 
must do this if he is to receive from these theories any practical 

Here, then, we have the beginner proceeding in a stereotyped way to 
tests of _palpation_, percussion, and auscultation, for the purpose of 
identifying the throbs, the resonance, the tones, the breathings, and 
the various sounds which _alone_ can enable him to formulate a 
diagnosis. Hence the deep and unhappy discouragement of so many young 
physicians, and, above all, the loss of time; for it is often a question 
of lost years. Then, there is the immorality of allowing a man to follow 
a profession of so great responsibility, when, as is often the case, he 
is so unskilled and inaccurate in the taking of symptoms. The whole art 
of medicine is based upon an education of the senses; the schools, 
instead, _prepare_ physicians through a study of the classics. All very 
well and good, but the splendid intellectual development of the 
physician falls, impotent, before the insufficiency of his senses. 

One day, I heard a surgeon giving, to a number of poor mothers, a lesson 
on the recognition of the first deformities noticeable in little 
children from the disease of rickets. It was his hope to lead these 
mothers to bring to him their children who were suffering from this 
disease, while the disease was yet in the earliest stages, and when 
medical help might still be efficacious. The mothers understood the 
idea, but they did not know how to recognise these first signs of 
deformity, because they were lacking in the sensory education through 
which they might discriminate between signs deviating only slightly from 
the normal. 

Therefore those lessons were useless. If we think of it for a minute, 

we will see that almost all the forms of adulteration in food stuffs are 
rendered possible by the torpor of the senses, which exists in the 
greater number of people. Fraudulent industry feeds upon the lack of 
sense education in the masses, as any kind of fraud is based upon the 
ignorance of the victim. We often see the purchaser throwing himself 
upon the honesty of the merchant, or putting his faith in the company, 
or the label upon the box. This is because purchasers are lacking in the 
capacity of judging directly for themselves. They do not know how to 
distinguish with their senses the different qualities of various 
substances. In fact, we may say that in many cases intelligence is 
rendered useless by lack of practice, and this practice is almost always 
sense education. Everyone knows in practical life the fundamental 
necessity of judging with exactness between various stimuli. 

But very often sense education is most difficult for the adult, just as 
it is difficult for him to educate his hand when he wishes to become a 
pianist. It is necessary to begin the education of the senses in the 
formative period, if we wish to perfect this sense development with the 
education which is to follow. The education of the senses should be 
begun methodically in infancy, and should continue during the entire 
period of instruction which is to prepare the individual for life in 

Asthetic and moral education are closely related to this sensory 
education. Multiply the sensations, and develop the capacity of 
appreciating fine differences in stimuli, and we _refine_ the 
sensibility and multiply man's pleasures. 

Beauty lies in harmony, not in contrast; and harmony is refinement; 
therefore, there must be a fineness of the senses if we are to 
appreciate harmony. The Esthetic harmony of nature is lost upon him who 
has coarse senses. The world to him is narrow and barren. In life about 
us, there exist inexhaustible fonts of Esthetic enjoyment, before which 
men pass as insensible as the brutes seeking their enjoyment in those 
sensations which are crude and showy, since they are the only ones 
accessible to them. 

Now, from the enjoyment of gross pleasures, vicious habits very often 
spring. Strong stimuli, indeed, do not render acute, but blunt the 
senses, so that they require stimuli more and more accentuated and more 
and more gross. 

_0nanism_, so often found among normal children of the lower classes, 
alcoholism, fondness for watching sensual acts of adults — these things 
represent the enjoyment of those unfortunate ones whose intellectual 
pleasures are few, and whose senses are blunted and dulled. Such 
pleasures kill the man within the individual, and call to life the 

[Illustration: _S_ — Sense, _C_ — Nerve centre, _M_ — Motor.] 

Indeed from the physiological point of view, the importance of the 
education of the senses is evident from an observation of the scheme of 
the diagrammatic arc which represents the functions of the nervous 
system. The external stimulus acts upon the organ of sense, and the 
impression is transmitted along the centripetal way to the nerve 
centre — the corresponding motor impulse is elaborated, and is 
transmitted along the centrifugal path to the organ of motion, provoking 
a movement. Although the arc represents diagrammatically the mechanism 
of reflex spinal actions, it may still be considered as a fundamental 
key explaining the phenomena of the more complex nervous mechanisms. 
Man, with the peripheral sensory system, gathers various stimuli from 
his environment. He puts himself thus in direct communication with his 
surroundings. The psychic life develops, therefore, in relation to the 
system of nerve centres; and human activity which is eminently social 
activity, manifests itself through acts of the individual — manual work, 
writing, spoken language, etc. — by means of the psychomotor organs. 

Education should guide and perfect the development of the three periods, 
the two peripheral and the central; or, better still, since the process 
fundamentally reduces itself to the nerve centres, education should give 
to psychosensory exercises the same importance which it gives to 
psychomotor exercises. 

Otherwise, we _isolate_ man from his _environment_. Indeed, when with 
_intellectual culture_ we believe ourselves to have completed education, 
we have but made thinkers, whose tendency will be to live without the 
world. We have not made practical men. If, on the other hand, wishing 
through education to prepare for practical life; we limit ourselves to 
exercising the psychomotor phase, we lose sight of the chief end of 
education, which is to put man in direct communication with the external 

Since _prof essional work_ almost always requires man to make _use of his 
surroundings_, the technical schools are not forced to return to the 
very beginnings of education, sense exercises, in order to supply the 
great and universal lack. 



To lead the child from the education of the senses to ideas." 

_Edward SEguin._ 

The sense exercises constitute a species of auto-education, which, if 
these exercises be many times repeated, leads to a perfecting of the 
child's psychosensory processes. The directress must intervene to lead 
the child from sensations to ideas — from the concrete to the abstract, 
and to the association of ideas. For this, she should use a method 
tending to isolate the inner attention of the child and to fix it upon 
the perceptions — as in the first lessons his objective attention was 
fixed, through isolation, upon single stimuli. 

The teacher, in other words, when she gives a lesson must seek to limit 
the field of the child's consciousness to the object of the lesson, as, 
for example, during sense education she isolated the sense which she 
wished the child to exercise. 

For this, knowledge of a special technique is necessary. The educator 
must, "_to the greatest possible extent, limit his intervention; yet he 
must not allow the child to weary himself in an undue effort of 
auto-education_. " 

It is here, that the factor of individual limitation and differing 
degrees of perception are most keenly felt in the teacher. In other 
words, in the quality of this intervention lies the art which makes up 
the individuality of the teacher. 

A definite and undoubted part of the teacher's work is that of teaching 
an exact nomenclature. 

She should, in most cases, pronounce the necessary names and adjectives 
without adding anything further. These words she should pronounce 
distinctly, and in a clear strong voice, so that the _various sounds_ 
composing the word may be distinctly and plainly perceived by the child. 

So, for example, touching the smooth and rough cards in the first 
tactile exercise, she should say, "This is smooth. This is rough," 
repeating the words with varying modulations of the voice, always 
letting the tones be clear and the enunciation very distinct. "Smooth, 
smooth, smooth. Rough, rough, rough." 

In the same way, when treating of the sensations of heat and cold, she 
must say, "This is cold." "This is hot." "This is ice-cold." "This is 
tepid." She may then begin to use the generic terms, "heat," "more 
heat," "less heat," etc. 

_First._ "The lessons in nomenclature must consist simply in provoking 
the association of the name with the object, or with the abstract idea 
which the name represents." Thus the _object_ and the _name_ must be 
united when they are received by the child's mind, and this makes it 
most necessary that no other word besides the name be spoken. 

_Second._ The teacher must always _test_ whether or not her lesson has 
attained the end she had in view, and her tests must be made to come 
within the restricted field of consciousness, provoked by the lesson on 

The first test will be to find whether the name is still associated in 
the child's mind with the object. She must allow the necessary time to 
elapse, letting a short period of silence intervene between the lesson 
and the test. Then she may ask the child, pronouncing slowly and very 
clearly the name or the adjective she has taught: "Which is _smooth_? 
Which is _rough_?" 

The child will point to the object with his finger, and the teacher will 
know that he has made the desired association. But if he has not done 
this, that is, if he makes a mistake, _she must not correct him_, but 
must suspend her lesson, to take it up again another day. Indeed, why 
correct him? If the child has not succeeded in associating the name with 
the object, the only way in which to succeed would be to _repeat_ both 
the action of the sense stimuli and the _name_; in other words, to 
repeat the lesson. But when the child has failed, we should know that he 
was not at that instant ready for the psychic association which we 
wished to provoke in him, and we must therefore choose another moment. 

If we should say, in correcting the child, "No, you have made a 
mistake," all these words, which, being in the form of a reproof, would 
strike him more forcibly than others (such as smooth or rough), would 
remain in the mind of the child, retarding the learning of the names. On 
the contrary, the _silence_ which follows the error leaves the field of 
consciousness clear, and the next lesson may successfully follow the 
first. In fact, by revealing the error we may lead the child to make an 
undue _effort_ to remember, or we may discourage him, and it is our duty 
to avoid as much as possible all unnatural effort and all depression. 

_Third._ If the child has not committed any error, the teacher may 
provoke the _motor activity_ corresponding to the idea of the object: 
that is, to the _pronunciation of the name_. She may ask him, "What is 
this?" and the child should respond, "Smooth." The teacher may then 
interrupt, teaching him how to pronounce the word correctly and 
distinctly, first, drawing a deep breath and, then, saying in a rather 
loud voice, "Smooth." When he does this the teacher may note his 
particular speech defect, or the special form of baby talk to which he 
may be addicted. 

In regard to the _generalisation_ of the ideas received, and by that I 
mean the application of these ideas to his environment, I do not advise 
any lessons of this sort for a certain length of time, even for a number 
of months. There will be children who, after having touched a few times 
the stuffs, or merely the smooth and rough cards, _will quite 
spontaneously touch the various surfaces about them_, repeating "Smooth! 
Rough! It is velvet! etc." In dealing with normal children, we must 
_await_ this spontaneous investigation of the surroundings, or, as I 
like to call it, this _voluntary explosion_ of the exploring spirit. In 
such cases, the children experience a joy at each _fresh discovery_. 
They are conscious of a sense of dignity and satisfaction which 
encourages them to seek for new sensations from their environment and to 
make themselves spontaneous _observers_. 

The teacher should _watch_ with the most solicitous care to see when and 
how the child arrives at this generalisation of ideas. For example, one 
of our little four-year-olds while running about in the court one day 
suddenly stood still and cried out, "Oh! the sky is blue!" and stood for 
some time looking up into the blue expanse of the sky. 

One day, when I entered one of the "Children's Houses," five or six 
little ones gathered quietly about me and began caressing, lightly, my 
hands, and my clothing, saying, "It is smooth." "It is velvet." "This is 
rough." A number of others came near and began with serious and intent 
faces to repeat the same words, touching me as they did so. The 
directress wished to interfere to release me, but I signed to her to be 
quiet, and I myself did not move, but remained silent, admiring this 
spontaneous intellectual activity of my little ones. The greatest 
triumph of our educational method should always be this: _to bring about 
the spontaneous progress of the child_. 

One day, a little boy, following one of our exercises in design, had 
chosen to fill in with coloured pencils the outline of a tree. To colour 
the trunk he laid hold upon a red crayon. The teacher wished to 
interfere, saying, "Do you think trees have red trunks?" I held her back 
and allowed the child to colour the tree red. This design was precious 
to us; it showed that the child was not yet an observer of his 
surroundings. _My way of treating this was to encourage the child to 
make use of the games for the chromatic sense. _ He went daily into the 
garden with the other children, and could at any time see the tree 
trunks. When the sense exercises should have succeeded in attracting the 
child's spontaneous attention to colours about him, then, in some _happy 
moment_ he would become aware that the tree trunks were not red, just as 
the other child during his play had become conscious of the fact that 
the sky was blue. In fact, the teacher continued to give the child 
outlines of trees to fill in. He one day chose a brown pencil with which 
to colour the trunk, and made the branches and leaves green. Later, he 
made the branches brown, also, using green only for the leaves. 

Thus we have _the test_ of the child's intellectual progress. We can not 
create observers by saying, "_observe_," but by giving them the power 
and the means for this observation, and these means are procured through 
education of the senses. Once we have _aroused_ such activity, 
auto-education is assured, for refined well-trained senses lead us to 
a closer observation of the environment, and this, with its infinite 
variety, attracts the attention and continues the psychosensory 

If, on the other hand, in this matter of sense education we single out 
definite concepts of the quality of certain objects, these very objects 
become associated with, or a part of, the training, which is in this way 
limited to those concepts taken and recorded. So the sense training 
remains unfruitful. When, for example, a teacher has given in the old 
way a lesson on the names of the colours, she has imparted an idea 
concerning that particular _quality_, but she has not educated the 
chromatic sense. The child will know these colours in a superficial way, 
forgetting them from time to time; and at best his appreciation of them 
will lie within the limits prescribed by the teacher. When, therefore, 
the teacher of the old methods shall have provoked the generalisation of 
the idea, saying, for example, "What is the colour of this flower!" "of 
this ribbon?" the attention of the child will in all probability remain 
torpidly fixed upon the examples suggested by her. 

We may liken the child to a clock, and may say that with the old-time 
way it is very much as if we were to hold the wheels of the clock quiet 
and move the hands about the clock face with our fingers. The hands will 
continue to circle the dial just so long as we apply, through our 
fingers, the necessary motor force. Even so is it with that sort of 
culture which is limited to the work which the teacher does with the 
child. The new method, instead, may be compared to the process of 
winding, which sets the entire mechanism in motion. 

This motion is in direct relation with the machine, and not with the 
work of winding. So the spontaneous psychic development of the child 
continues indefinitely and is in direct relation to the psychic 
potentiality of the child himself, and not with the work of the teacher. 
The movement, or the _spontaneous psychic activity_ starts in our case 
from the education of the senses and is maintained by the observing 
intelligence. Thus, for example, the hunting dog receives his ability, 
not from the education given by his master, but from the _special 
acuteness_ of his senses; and as soon as this physiological quality is 
applied to the right environment, the _exercise of hunting_, the 
increasing refinement of the sense perceptions, gives the dog the 
pleasure and then the passion for the chase. The same is true of the 
pianist who, refining at the same time his musical sense and the agility 
of his hand, comes to love more and more to draw new harmonies from the 
instrument. Thia double perfection proceeds until at last the pianist is 
launched upon a course which will be limited only by the personality 
which lies within him. Now a student of physics may know all the laws of 
harmony which form a part of his scientific culture, and yet he may not 
know how to follow a most simple musical composition. His culture, 
however vast, will be bound by the definite limits of his science. Our 
educational aim with very young children must be to _aid the spontaneous 
development of the mental, spiritual, and physical personality_, and not 
to make of the child a cultured individual in the commonly accepted 
sense of the term. So, after we have offered to the child such didactic 
material as is adapted to provoke the development of his senses, we must 
wait until the activity known as observation develops. And herein lies 
the _art of the educator_; in knowing how to measure the action by which 
we help the young child's personality to develop. To one whose attitude 
is right, little children soon reveal _profound individual differences_ 
which call for very different kinds of help from the teacher. Some of 
them require almost no intervention on her part, while others demand 
actual _teaching_. It is necessary, therefore, that the teaching shall 
be rigorously guided by the principle of limiting to the greatest 
possible point the active intervention of the educator. 

Here are a number of games and problems which we have used effectively 
in trying to follow this principle. 


The Games of the Blind are used for the most part as exercises in 
general sensibility as follows: 

_The Stuffs. _ We have in our didactic material a pretty little chest 
composed of drawers within which are arranged rectangular pieces of 
stuff in great variety. There are velvet, satin, silk, cotton, linen, 
etc. We have the child touch each of these pieces, teaching the 
appropriate nomenclature and adding something regarding the quality, as 
coarse, fine, soft. Then, we call the child and seat him at one of the 
tables where he can be seen by his companions, blindfold him, and offer 
him the stuffs one by one. He touches them, smooths them, crushes them 
between his fingers and decides, "It is velvet, — It is fine linen, — It 
is rough cloth," etc. This exercise provokes general interest. When we 
offer the child some unexpected foreign object, as, for example, a sheet 
of paper, a veil, the little assembly trembles as it awaits his 

_Weight._ We place the child in the same position, call his attention 
to the tablets used for the education of the sense of weight, have him 
notice again the already well-known differences of weight, and then tell 
him to put all the dark tablets, which are the heavier ones, at the 
right, and all the light ones, which are the lighter, to the left. We 
then blindfold him and he proceeds to the game, taking each time two 
tablets. Sometimes he takes two of the same colour, sometimes two of 
different colours, but in a position opposite to that in which he must 
arrange them on his desk. These exercises are most exciting; when, for 

example, the child has in his hands two of the dark tablets and changes 
them from one hand to the other uncertain, and finally places them 
together on the right, the children watch in a state of intense 
eagerness, and a great sigh often expresses their final relief. The 
shouts of the audience when the entire game is followed without an 
error, gives the impression that their little friend _sees with his 
hands_ the colours of the tablets. 

_Dimension and Form._ We use games similar to the preceding one, having 
the child distinguish between different coins, the cubes and bricks of 
Froebel, and dry seeds, such as beans and peas. But such games never 
awaken the intense interest aroused by the preceding ones. They are, 
however, useful and serve to associate with the various objects those 
qualities peculiar to them, and also to fix the nomenclature. 


_Nomenclature._ This is one of the most important phases of education. 
Indeed, nomenclature prepares for an _exactness_ in the use of language 
which is not always met with in our schools. Many children, for 
example, use interchangeably the words thick and big, long and high. 
With the methods already described, the teacher may easily establish, by 
means of the didactic material, ideas which are very exact and clear, 
and may associate the proper word with these ideas. 

_Method of Using the Didactic Material_ 

_Dimensions._ The directress, after the child has played for a long time 
with the three sets of solid insets and has acquired a security in the 
performance of the exercise, takes out all the cylinders of equal height 
and places them in a horizontal position on the table, one beside the 
other. Then she selects the two extremes, saying, "This is the 
_thickest_ — This is the _thinnest_." She places them side by side so 
that the comparison may be more marked, and then taking them by the 
little button, she compares the bases, calling attention to the great 
difference. She then places them again beside each other in a vertical 
position in order to show that they are equal in height, and repeats 
several times, "thick — thin." Having done this, she should follow it 
with the test, asking, "Give me the thickest — Give me the thinnest," and 
finally she should proceed to the test of nomenclature, asking, "What is 
this?" In the lessons which follow this, the directress may take away 
the two extreme pieces and may repeat the lesson with the two pieces 
remaining at the extremities, and so on until she has used all the 
pieces. She may then take these up at random, saying, "Give me one a 
little thicker than this one," or "Give me one a little thinner than 
this one." With the second set of solid insets she proceeds in the same 
way. Here she stands the pieces upright, as each one has a base 
sufficiently broad to maintain it in this position, saying, "This is the 
highest" and "This is the lowest." Then placing the two extreme pieces 
side by side she may take them out of the line and compare the bases, 
showing that they are equal. From the extremes she may proceed as 
before, selecting each time the two remaining pieces most strongly 

With the third solid inset, the directress, when she has arranged the 
pieces in gradation, calls the child's attention to the first one, 
saying, "This is the largest," and to the last one, saying, "This is the 
smallest." Then she places them side by side and observes how they 
differ both in height and in base. She then proceeds in the same way as 
in the other two exercises. 

Similar lessons may be given with the series of graduated prisms, of 
rods, and of cubes. The prisms are _thick_ and _thin_ and of equal 
_length_. The rods are _long_ and _short_ and of equal _thickness_. The 
cubes are _big_ and _little_ and differ in size and in height. 

The application of these ideas to environment will come most easily when 
we measure the children with the anthropometer. They will begin among 
themselves to make comparisons, saying, "I am taller, — you are thicker." 
These comparisons are also made when the children hold out their little 
hands to show that they are clean, and the directress stretches hers out 
also, to show that she, too, has clean hands. Often the contrast between 
the dimensions of the hands calls forth laughter. The children make a 
perfect game of measuring themselves. They stand side by side; they look 
at each other; they decide. Often they place themselves beside grown 
persons, and observe with curiosity and interest the great difference in 
height . 

_Form._ When the child shows that he can with security distinguish 
between the forms of the plane geometric insets, the directress may 
begin the lessons in nomenclature. She should begin with two 
strongly-contrasted forms, as the square and the circle, and should 
follow the usual method, using the three periods of SEguin. We do not 
teach all the names relative to the geometric figures, giving only those 
of the most familiar forms, such as square, circle, rectangle, triangle, 
oval. We now call attention to the fact that there are _rectangles which 
are narrow and long_, and others which are _broad and short_, while the 
_squares_ are equal on all sides and can be only big and little. These 
things are most easily shown with the insets, for, though we turn the 
square about, it still enters its frame, while the rectangle, if placed 
across the opening, will not enter. The child is much interested in this 
exercise, for which we arrange in the frame a square and a series of 
rectangles, having the longest side equal to the side of the square, the 
other side gradually decreasing in the five pieces. 

In the same way we proceed to show the difference between the oval, the 
ellipse, and the circle. The circle enters no matter how it is placed, 
or turned about; the ellipse does not enter when placed transversely, 
but if placed lengthwise will enter even if turned upside down. The 
oval, however, not only cannot enter the frame if placed transversely, 
but not even when turned upside down; it must be placed with the _large_ 
curve toward the large part of the opening, and with the _narrow_ curve 
toward the _narrow_ portion of the opening. 

The circles, _big_ and _little_, enter their frames no matter how they 
are turned about. I do not reveal the difference between the oval and 
the ellipse until a very late stage of the child's education, and then 
not to all children, but only to those who show a special interest in 
the forms by choosing the game often, or by asking about the 
differences. I prefer that such differences should be recognised later 
by the child, spontaneously, perhaps in the elementary school. 

It seems to many persons that in teaching these forms we are teaching 
_geometry_, and that this is premature in schools for such young 
children. Others feel that, if we wish to present geometric forms, we 
should use the _solids_, as being more concrete. 

I feel that I should say a word here to combat such prejudices. To 
_observe_ a geometric form is not to _analyse_ it, and in the analysis 
geometry begins. When, for example, we speak to the child of sides and 
angles and explain these to him, even though with objective methods, as 
Froebel advocates (for example, the square has four sides and can be 
constructed with four sticks of equal length), then indeed we do enter 
the field of geometry, and I believe that little children are too 
immature for these steps. But the _observation of the form_ cannot be 
too advanced for a child at this age. The plane of the table at which 
the child sits while eating his supper is probably a rectangle; the 
plate which contains his food is a circle, and we certainly do not 
consider that the child is too _immature_ to be allowed to look at the 
table and the plate. 

The insets which we present simply call the attention to a given _form_. 
As to the name, it is analogous to other names by which the child learns 

to call things. Why should we consider it premature to teach the child 
the words _circle_, _square_, _oval_, when in his home he repeatedly 
hears the word _round_ used in connection with plates, etc. He will hear 
his parents speak of the _square_ table, the _oval_ table, etc., and 
these words in common use will remain for a long time _confused_ in his 
mind and in his speech, if we do not interpose such help as that we give 
in the teaching of forms. 

We should reflect upon the fact that many times a child, left to 
himself, makes an undue effort to comprehend the language of the adults 
and the meaning of the things about him. Opportune and rational 
instruction _prevents_ such an effort, and therefore does not _weary_, 
but _relieves_, the child and satisfies his desire for knowledge. 
Indeed, he shows his contentment by various expressions of pleasure. At 
the same time, his attention is called to the word which, if he is 
allowed to pronounce badly, develops in him an imperfect use of the 

This often arises from an effort on his part to imitate the careless 
speech of persons about him, while the teacher, by pronouncing clearly 
the word referring to the object which arouses the child's curiosity, 
prevents such effort and such imperfections. 

Here, also, we face a widespread prejudice; namely, the belief that the 
child left to himself gives absolute repose to his mind. If this were so 
he would remain a stranger to the world, and, instead, we see him, 
little by little, spontaneously conquer various ideas and words. He is a 
traveller through life, who observes the new things among which he 
journeys, and who tries to understand the unknown tongue spoken by those 
about him. Indeed, he makes a great and _voluntary effort_ to understand 
and to imitate. The instruction given to little children should be so 
directed as to _lessen this expenditure_ of poorly directed effort, 
converting it instead into the enjoyment of conquest made easy and 
infinitely broadened. We are _the guides_ of these travellers just 
entering the great world of human thought. We should see to it that we 
are intelligent and cultured guides, not losing ourselves in vain 
discourse, but illustrating briefly and concisely the work of art in 
which the traveller shows himself interested, and we should then 
respectfully allow him to observe it as long as he wishes to. It is our 
privilege to lead him to observe the most important and the most 
beautiful things of life in such a way that he does not lose energy and 
time in useless things, but shall find pleasure and satisfaction 
throughout his pilgrimage. 

I have already referred to the prejudice that it is more suitable to 
present the geometric forms to the child in the _solid_ rather than in 
the _plane_, giving him, for example, the _cube_, the _sphere_, the 
_prism_. Let us put aside the physiological side of the question showing 
that the visual recognition of the solid figure is more complex than 
that of the plane, and let us view the question only from the more 
purely pedagogical standpoint of _practical life_. 

The greater number of objects which we look upon every day present more 
nearly the aspect of our plane geometric insets. In fact, doors, 
window-frames, framed pictures, the wooden or marble top of a table, are 
indeed _solid_ objects, but with one of the dimensions greatly reduced, 
and with the two dimensions determining the form of the plane surface 
made most evident. 

When the plane form prevails, we say that the window is rectangular, the 
picture frame oval, this table square, etc. _Solids having a determined 
form prevailing in the plane surface_ are almost the only ones which 
come to our notice. And such solids are clearly represented by our 
_plane geometric insets_. 

The child will _very often_ recognise in his environment forms which he 
has learned in this way, but he will rarely recognise the _solid 
geometric forms_. 

That the table leg is a prism, or a truncated cone, or an elongated 
cylinder, will come to his knowledge long after he has observed that the 
top of the table upon which he places things is rectangular. We do not, 
therefore, speak of the fact of recognising that a house is a prism or a 
cube. Indeed, the pure solid geometric forms _never exist_ in the 
ordinary objects about us; these present, instead, a _combination of 
forms_. So, putting aside the difficulty of taking in at a glance the 
complex form of a house, the child recognises in it, not an _identity_ 
of form, but an _analogy_. 

He will, however, see the plane geometric forms perfectly represented in 
windows and doors, and in the faces of many solid objects in use at 
home. Thus the knowledge of the forms given him in the plane geometric 
insets will be for him a species of magic _key_, opening the external 
world, and making him feel that he knows its secrets. 

I was walking one day upon the Pincian Hill with a boy from the 
elementary school. He had studied geometric design and understood the 
analysis of plane geometric figures. As we reached the highest terrace 
from which we could see the Piazza del Popolo with the city stretching 
away behind it, I stretched out my hand saying, "Look, all the works of 
man are a great mass of geometric figures;" and, indeed, rectangles, 
ovals, triangles, and semicircles, perforated, or ornamented, in a 
hundred different ways the grey rectangular faAades of the various 
buildings. Such uniformity in such an expanse of buildings seemed to 
prove the _limitation_ of human intelligence, while in an adjoining 
garden plot the shrubs and flowers spoke eloquently of the infinite 
variety of forms in nature. 

The boy had never made these observations; he had studied the angles, 
the sides and the construction of outlined geometric figures, but 
without thinking beyond this, and feeling only annoyance at this arid 
work. At first he laughed at the idea of man's massing geometric figures 
together, then he became interested, looked long at the buildings before 
him, and an expression of lively and thoughtful interest came into his 
face. To the right of the Ponte Margherita was a factory building in the 
process of construction, and its steel framework delineated a series of 
rectangles. "What tedious work!" said the boy, alluding to the workmen. 
And, then, as we drew near the garden, and stood for a moment in silence 
admiring the grass and the flowers which sprang so freely from the 
earth, "It is beautiful!" he said. But that word "beautiful" referred to 
the inner awakening of his own soul. 

This experience made me think that in the observation of the plane 
geometric forms, and in that of the plants which they saw growing in 
their own little gardens, there existed for the children precious 
sources of spiritual as well as intellectual education. For this reason, 
I have wished to make my work broad, leading the child, not only to 
observe the forms about him, but to distinguish the work of man from 
that of nature, and to appreciate the fruits of human labour. 

(_a_) _Free Design. _ I give the child a sheet of white paper and a 
pencil, telling him that he may draw whatever he wishes to. Such 
drawings have long been of interest to experimental psychologists. Their 
importance lies in the fact that they reveal the _capacity_ of the child 
for observing, and also show his individual tendencies. Generally, the 
first drawings are unformed and confused, and the teacher should ask 
the child _what he wished to draw_, and should write it underneath the 
design that it may be a record. Little by little, the drawings become 
more intelligible, and verily reveal the progress which the child makes 
in the observation of the forms about him. Often the most minute details 
of an object have been observed and recorded in the crude sketch. And, 
since the child draws what he wishes, he reveals to us which are the 
objects that most strongly attract his attention. 

(_b_) _Design Consisting of the Filling in of Outlined Figures. _ These 
designs are most important as they constitute "the preparation for 

writing." They do for the colour sense what _free design_ does for the 
sense of _form_. In other words, they reveal the capacity of the child 
_in the matter of observation of colours_, as the free design showed us 
the extent to which he was an observer of form in the objects 
surrounding him. I shall speak more fully of this work in the chapter on 
_writing_. The exercises consist in filling in with coloured pencil, 
certain outlines drawn in black. These outlines present the simple 
geometric figures and various objects with which the child is familiar 
in the schoolroom, the home, and the garden. The child must _select_ his 
colour, and in doing so he shows us whether he has observed the colours 
of the things surrounding him. 

_Free Plastic Work_ 

These exercises are analogous to those in free design and in the filling 
in of figures with coloured pencils. Here the child makes whatever he 
wishes with _clay_; that is, he models those objects which he remembers 
most distinctly and which have impressed him most deeply. We give the 
child a wooden tray containing a piece of clay, and then we await his 
work. We possess some very remarkable pieces of clay work done by our 
little ones. Some of them reproduce, with surprising minuteness of 
detail, objects which they have seen. And what is most surprising, these 
models often record not only the form, but even the _dimensions_ of the 
objects which the child handled in school. 

Many little ones model the objects which they have seen at home, 
especially kitchen furniture, water-jugs, pots, and pans. Sometimes, we 
are shown a simple cradle containing a baby brother or sister. At first 
it is necessary to place written descriptions upon these objects, as it 
is necessary to do with the free design. Later on, however, the models 
are easily recognisable, and the children learn to reproduce the 
geometric solids. These clay models are undoubtedly very valuable 
material for the teacher, and make clear many individual differences, 
thus helping her to understand her children more fully. In our method 
they are also valuable as psychological manifestations of development 
according to age. Such designs are precious guides also for the teacher 
in the matter of her intervention in the child's education. The children 
who, in this work reveal themselves as observers, will probably become 
spontaneous observers of all the world about them, and may be led toward 
such a goal by the indirect help of exercises tending to fix and to make 
more exact the various sensations and ideas. 

These children will also be those who arrive most quickly at the act of 
_spontaneous writing_. Those whose clay work remains unformed and 
indefinite will probably need the direct revelation of the directress, 
who will need to call their attention in some material manner to the 
objects around them. 

_Geometric Analysis of Figures; Sides, Angles, Centre, Base_ 

The geometric analysis of figures is not adapted to very young children. 
I have tried a means for the _introduction_ of such analysis, limiting 
this work to the _rectangle_ and making use of a game which includes the 
analysis without fixing the attention of the child upon it. This game 
presents the concept most clearly. 

The _rectangle_ of which I make use is the plane of one of the 
children's tables, and the game consists in laying the table for a meal. 
I have in each of the "Children's Houses" a collection of toy 
table-furnishings, such as may be found in any toy-store. Among these 
are dinner-plates, soup-plates, soup-tureen, saltcellars, glasses, 
decanters, little knives, forks, spoons, etc. I have them lay the table 
for six, putting _two places_ on each of the longer sides, and one place 
on each of the shorter sides. One of the children takes the objects and 
places them as I indicate. I tell him to place the soup tureen in the 
_centre_ of the table; this napkin in a _corner_. "Place this plate in 

the centre of the short _side_." 

Then I have the child look at the table, and I say, "Something is 
lacking in this _corner_. We want another glass on this _side_. Now let 
us see if we have everything properly placed on the two longer sides. Is 
everything ready on the two shorter sides? Is there anything lacking in 
the four corners?" 

I do not believe that we may proceed to any more complex analysis than 
this before the age of six years, for I believe that the child should 
one day take up one of the plane insets and _spontaneously_ begin to 
count the sides and the angles. Certainly, if we taught them such ideas 
they would be able to learn them, but it would be a mere learning of 
formulE, and not applied experience. 

_Exercises in the Chromatic Sense_ 

I have already indicated what colour exercises we follow. Here I wish to 
indicate more definitely the succession of these exercises and to 
describe them more fully. 

_Designs and Pictures. _ We have prepared a number of outline drawings 
which the children are to fill in with coloured pencil, and, later on, 
with a brush, preparing for themselves the water-colour tints which they 
will use. The first designs are of flowers, butterflies, trees and 
animals, and we then pass to simple landscapes containing grass, sky, 
houses, and human figures. 

These designs help us in our study of the natural development of the 
child as an observer of his surroundings; that is, in regard to colour. 
The children _select the colours_ and are left entirely free in their 
work. If, for example, they colour a chicken red, or a cow green, this 
shows that they have not yet become observers. But I have already spoken 
of this in the general discussion of the method. These designs also 
reveal the effect of the education of the chromatic sense. As the child 
selects delicate and harmonious tints, or strong and contrasting ones, 
we can judge of the progress he has made in the refinement of his colour 

The fact that the child must _remember_ the colour of the objects 
represented in the design encourages him to observe those things which 
are about him. And then, too, he wishes to be able to fill in more 
difficult designs. Only those children who know how to keep the colour 
_within_ the outline and to reproduce the _right colours_ may proceed to 
the more ambitious work. These designs are very easy, and often very 
effective, sometimes displaying real artistic work. The directress of 
the school in Mexico, who studied for a long time with me, sent me two 
designs; one representing a cliff in which the stones were coloured most 
harmoniously in light violet and shades of brown, trees in two shades of 
green, and the sky a soft blue. The other represented a horse with a 
chestnut coat and black mane and tail. 



_Spontaneous Development of Graphic Language. _ While I was directress of 
the Orthophrenic School at Rome, I had already began to experiment with 
various didactic means for the teaching of reading and writing. These 
experiments were practically original with me. 

Itard and SEguin do not present any rational method through which 
writing may be learned. In the pages above quoted, it may be seen how 

Itard proceeded in the teaching of the alphabet and I give here what 
SEguin says concerning the teaching of writing. 

"To have a child pass from design, to writing, which is its most 
immediate application, the teacher need only call D, a portion of a 
circle, resting its extremities upon a vertical; A, two obliques 
reunited at the summit and cut by a horizontal, etc., etc. 

"We no longer need worry ourselves as to how the child shall learn to 
write: he designs, _then_ writes. It need not be said that we should 
have the child draw the letters according to the laws of contrast and 
analogy. For instance, beside I; B with P; T opposite L, etc." 

According to SEguin, then, we do not need to _teach_ writing. The child 
who draws, will write. But writing, for this author, means printed 
capitals! Nor does he, in any other place, explain whether his pupil 
shall write in any other way. He instead, gives much space to the 
description of _the design which prepares for_, and which _includes_ 
writing. This method of design is full of difficulties and was only 
established by the combined attempts of Itard and SEguin. 

"Chapter XL: DESIGN. In design the first idea to be acquired is that of 
the plane destined to receive the design. The second is that of the 
trace or delineation. Within these two concepts lies all design, all 
linear creation. 

"These two concepts are correlative, their relation generates the idea, 
or the capacity to produce the lines in this sense; that lines may only 
be called such when they follow a methodical and determined direction: 
the trace without direction is not a line; produced by chance, it has no 

"The rational sign, on the contrary, has a name because it has a 
direction and since all writing or design is nothing other than a 
composite of the diverse directions followed by a line, we must, before 
approaching what is commonly called writing, _insist_ upon these notions 
of plane and line. The ordinary child acquires these by instinct, but an 
insistence upon them is necessary in order to render the idiot careful 
and sensitive in their application. Through methodical design he will 
come into rational contact with all parts of the plane and will, guided 
by imitation, produce lines at first simple, but growing more 

"The pupil may be taught: First, to trace the diverse species of lines. 
Second, to trace them in various directions and in different positions 
relative to the plane. Third, to reunite these lines to form figures 
varying from simple to complex. We must therefore, teach the pupil to 
distinguish straight lines from curves, vertical from horizontal, and 
from the various oblique lines; and must finally make clear the 
principal points of conjunction of two or more lines in forming a 

"This rational analysis of design, _from which writing will spring_, is 
so essential in all its parts, that a child who, before being confided 
to my care, already wrote many of the letters, has taken six days to 
learn to draw a perpendicular or a horizontal line; he spent fifteen 
days before imitating a curve and an oblique. Indeed the greater number 
of my pupils, are for a long time incapable of even imitating the 
movements of my hand upon the paper, before attempting to draw a line in 
a determined direction. The most imitative, or the least stupid ones, 
produce a sign diametrically opposite to that which I show them and all 
of them confound the points of conjunction of two lines no matter how 
evident this is. It is true that the thorough knowledge I have given 
them of lines and of configuration helps them to make the connection 
which must be established between the plane and the various marks with 
which they must cover the surface, but in the study rendered necessary 
by the deficiency of my pupils, the progression in the matter of the 
vertical, the horizontal, the oblique, and the curve must be determined 

by the consideration of the difficulty of comprehension and of execution 
which each offers to a torpid intelligence and to a weak unsteady hand. 

"I do not speak here of merely having them perform a difficult thing, 
since I have them surmount a _series_ of difficulties and for this 
reason I ask myself if some of these difficulties are not greater and 
some less, and if they do not grow one from the other, like theorems. 
Here are the ideas which have guided me in this respect. 

"The vertical is a line which the eye and the hand follow directly, 
going up and down. The horizontal line is not natural to the eye, nor to 
the hand, which lowers itself and follows a curve (like the horizon from 
which it has taken its name), starting from the centre and going to the 
lateral extremity of the plane. 

"The oblique line presupposes more complex comparative ideas, and the 
curve demands such firmness and so many differences in its relation to 
the plane that we would only lose time in taking up the study of these 
lines. The most simple line then, is the vertical, and this is how I 
have given my pupils an idea of it. 

"The first geometric formula is this: only straight lines may be drawn 
from one given point to another. 

"Starting from this axiom, which the hand alone can demonstrate, I have 
fixed two points upon the blackboard and have connected them by means of 
a vertical. My pupils try to do the same between the dots they have upon 
their paper, but with some the vertical descends to the right of the 
point and with others, to the left, to say nothing of those whose hand 
diverges in all directions. To arrest these various deviations which are 
often far more defects of the intelligence and of the vision, than of 
the hand, I have thought it wise to restrict the field of the plane, 
drawing two vertical lines to left and right of the points which the 
child is to join by means of a parallel line half way between the two 
enclosing lines. If these two lines are not enough, I place two rulers 
vertically upon the paper, which arrest the deviations of the hand 
absolutely. These material barriers are not, however, useful for very 
long. We first suppress the rulers and return to the two parallel lines, 
between which the idiot learns to draw the third line. We then take 
away one of the guiding lines, and leave, sometimes that on the right, 
sometimes that on the left, finally taking away this last line and at 
last, the dots, beginning by erasing the one at the top which indicates 
the starting point of the line and of the hand. The child thus learns to 
draw a vertical without material control, without points of comparison. 

"The same method, the same difficulty, the same means of direction are 
used for the straight horizontal lines. If, by chance, these lines begin 
well, we must await until the child curves them, departing from the 
centre and proceeding to the extremity _as nature commands him_, and 
because of the reason which I have explained. If the two dots do not 
suffice to sustain the hand, we keep it from deviating by means of the 
parallel lines or of the rulers. 

"Finally, have him trace a horizontal line, and by uniting with it a 
vertical ruler we form a right angles. The child will begin to 
understand, in this way, what the vertical and horizontal lines really 
are, and will see the relation of these two ideas as he traces a figure. 

"In the sequence of the development of lines, it would seem that the 
study of the oblique should immediately follow that of the vertical and 
the horizontal, but this is not so! The oblique which partakes of the 
vertical in its inclination, and of the horizontal in its direction, and 
which partakes of both in its nature (since it is a straight line), 
presents perhaps, because of its relation to other lines, an idea too 
complex to be appreciated without preparation." 

Thus SEguin goes on through many pages, to speak of the oblique in all 
directions, which he has his pupils trace between two parallels. He then 

tells of the four curves which he has them draw to right and left of a 
vertical and above and below a horizontal, and concludes: "So we find 
the solution of the problems for which we sought — the vertical line, the 
horizontal, the oblique, and the four curves, whose union forms the 
circle, contain all possible lines, _all writing_. 

"Arrived at this point, Itard and I were for a long time at a 
standstill. The lines being known, the next step was to have the child 
trace regular figures, beginning of course, with the simplest. According 
to the general opinion, Itard had advised me to begin with the square 
and I had followed this advice _for three months_, without being able to 
make the child understand me." 

After a long series of experiments, guided by his ideas of the genesis 
of geometric figures, SEguin became aware that the triangle is the 
figure most easily drawn. 

"When three lines meet thus, they always form a triangle, while four 
lines may meet in a hundred different directions without remaining 
parallel and therefore without presenting a perfect square. 

"From these experiments and many others, I have deduced the first 
principles of writing and of design for the idiot; principles whose 
application is _too simple_ for me to discuss further." 

Such was the proceeding used by my predecessors in the teaching of 
writing to deficients. As for reading, Itard proceeded thus: he drove 
nails into the wall and hung upon them, geometric figures of wood, such 
as triangles, squares, circles. He then drew the exact imprint of these 
upon the wall, after which he took the figures away and had the "boy of 
Aveyron" replace them upon the proper nails, guided by the design. From 
this design Itard conceived the idea of the plane geometric insets. He 
finally had large print letters made of wood and proceeded in the same 
way as with the geometric figures, that is, using the design upon the 
wall and arranging the nails in such a way that the child might place 
the letters upon them and then take them off again. Later, SEguin used 
the horizontal plane instead of the wall, drawing the letters on the 
bottom of a box and having the child superimpose solid letters. After 
twenty years, SEguin had not changed his method of procedure. 

A criticism of the method used by Itard and SEguin for reading and 
writing seems to me superfluous. The method has two fundamental errors 
which make it inferior to the methods in use for normal children, 
namely: writing in printed capitals, and the preparation for writing 
through a study of rational geometry, which we now expect only from 
students in the secondary schools. 

SEguin here confuses ideas in a most extraordinary way. He has suddenly 
jumped from the psychological observation of the child and from his 
relation to his environment, to the study of the origin of lines and 
their relation to the plane. 

He says that the child _will readily design a vertical line_, but that 
the horizontal will soon become a curve, because "_nature commands it_" 
and this _command of nature_ is represented by the fact that man sees 
the horizon as a curved line! 

The example of SEguin serves to illustrate the necessity of a _special 
education_ which shall fit man for _observation_, and shall direct 
_logical thought_. 

The observation must be absolutely objective, in other words, stripped 
of preconceptions. SEguin has in this case the preconception that 
geometric design must prepare for writing, and that hinders him from 
discovering the truly natural proceeding necessary to such preparation. 
He has, besides, the preconception that the deviation of a line, as well 
as the inexactness with which the child traces it, are due to "_the mind 
and the eye, not to the hand_," and so he wearies himself _for weeks and 

months in explaining_ the direction of lines and in guiding _the vision_ 
of the idiot. 

It seems as if SEguin felt that a good method must start from a superior 
point, geometry; the intelligence of the child is only considered worthy 
of attention in its relation to abstract things. And is not this a 
common defect? 

Let us observe mediocre men; they pompously assume erudition and disdain 
simple things. Let us study the clear thought of those whom we consider 
men of genius. Newton is seated tranquilly in the open air; an apple 
falls from the tree, he observes it and asks, "Why?" Phenomena are never 
insignificant; the fruit which falls and universal gravitation may rest 
side by side in the mind of a genius. 

If Newton had been a teacher of children he would have led the child to 
look upon the worlds on a starry night, but an erudite person might have 
felt it necessary first to prepare the child to understand the sublime 
calculus which is the key to astronomy — Galileo Galilei observed the 
oscillation of a lamp swung on high, and discovered the laws of the 

In the intellectual life _simplicity_ consists in divesting one's mind 
of every preconception, and this leads to the discovery of new things, 
as, in the moral life, humility and material poverty guide us toward 
high spiritual conquests. 

If we study the history of discoveries, we will find that they have 
come from _real objective observation_ and _from logical thought_. These 
are simple things, but rarely found in one man. 

Does it not seem strange, for instance, that after the discovery by 
Laveran of the malarial parasite which invades the red blood-corpuscles, 
we did not, in spite of the fact that we know the blood system to be a 
system of closed vessels, even so much as _suspect the possibility_ that 
a stinging insect might inoculate us with the parasite? Instead, the 
theory that the evil emanated from low ground, that it was carried by 
the African winds, or that it was due to dampness, was given credence. 
Yet these were vague ideas, while the parasite was a definite biological 

When the discovery of the malarial mosquito came to complete logically 
the discovery of Laveran, this seemed marvellous, stupefying. Yet we 
know in biology that the reproduction of molecular vegetable bodies is 
by scission with alternate sporation, and that of molecular animals is 
by scission with alternate conjunction. That is, after a certain period 
in which the primitive cell has divided and sub-divided into fresh 
cells, equal among themselves, there comes the formation of two diverse 
cells, one male and one female, which must unite to form a single cell 
capable of recommencing the cycle of reproduction by division. All this 
being known at the time of Laveran, and the malarial parasite being 
known to be a protozoon, it would have seemed logical to consider its 
segmentation in the stroma of the red corpuscle as the phase of scission 
and to await until the parasite gave place to the sexual forms, which 
must necessarily come in the phase succeeding scission. Instead, the 
division was looked upon as spore-formation, and neither Laveran, nor 
the numerous scientists who followed the research, knew how to give an 
explanation of the appearance of the sexual forms. Laveran expressed an 
idea, which was immediately received, that these two forms were 
degenerate forms of the malarial parasite, and therefore incapable of 
producing the changes determining the disease. Indeed, the malaria was 
apparently cured at the appearance of the two sexual forms of the 
parasite, the conjunction of the two cells being impossible in the human 
blood. The theory — then recent — of Morel upon human degeneration 
accompanied by deformity and weakness, inspired Laveran in his 
interpretation, and everybody found the idea of the illustrious 
pathologist a fortunate one, because it was inspired by the great 
concepts of the Morellian theory. 

Had anyone, instead, limited himself to reasoning thus: the original 
form of the malarial insect is a protozoon; it reproduces itself by 
scission, under our eyes; when the scission is finished, we see two 
diverse cells, one a half-moon, the other threadlike. These are the 
feminine and masculine cells which must, by conjunction, alternate the 
scission, — such a reasoner would have opened the way to the discovery. 
But _so simple_ a process of reasoning did not come. We might almost ask 
ourselves how great would be the world's progress if a special form of 
education prepared men for pure observation and logical thought. 

A great deal of time and intellectual force are lost in the world, 
because the false seems great and the truth so small and insignificant. 

I say all this to defend the necessity, which I feel we face, of 
preparing the coming generations by means of more rational methods. It 
is from these generations that the world awaits its progress. We have 
already learned to make use of our surroundings, but I believe that we 
have arrived at a time when the necessity presents itself for 
_utilising_ human force, through a scientific education. 

To return to SEguin's method of writing, it illustrates another truth, 
and that is the tortuous path we follow in our teaching. This, too, is 
allied to an instinct for complicating things, analogous to that which 
makes us so prone to appreciate complicated things. We have SEguin 
teaching _geometry_ in order to teach a child to write; and making the 
child's mind exert itself to follow geometrical abstractions only to 
come down to the simple effort of drawing a printed D. After all, must 
the child not have to make another effort in order to _forget_ the 
print, and _learn_ the script! 

And even we in these days still believe that in order to learn to write 
the child must first make vertical strokes. This conviction is very 
general. Yet it does not seem natural that to write the letters of the 
alphabet, which are all rounded, it should be necessary to begin with 
straight lines and acute angles. 

In all good faith, we wonder that it should be difficult to do away 
with the angularity and stiffness with which the beginner traces the 
beautiful curve of the 0. [13] Yet, through what effort on our part, and 
on his, was he forced to fill pages and pages with rigid lines and acute 
angles! To whom is due this time-honoured idea that the first sign to be 
traced must be a straight line? And why do we so avoid preparing for 
curves as well as angles? 

[13] It will, of course, be understood that this is a criticism 
of the system in use in Italian schools. A. E. G. 

Let us, for a moment, divest ourselves of such preconceptions and 
proceed in a more simple way. We may be able to relieve future 
generations of _all effort_ in the matter of learning to write. 

Is it necessary to begin writing with the making of vertical strokes? A 
moment of clear and logical thinking is enough to enable us to answer, 
no. The child makes too painful an effort in following such an exercise. 
The first steps should be the easiest, and the up and down stroke, is, 
on the contrary, one of the most difficult of all the pen movements. 
Only a professional penman could fill a whole page and preserve the 
regularity of such strokes, but a person who writes only moderately well 
would be able to complete a page of presentable writing. Indeed, the 
straight line is unique, expressing the shortest distance between two 
points, while _any deviation_ from that direction signifies a line which 
is not straight. These infinite deviations are therefore easier than 
that _one_ trace which is perfection. 

If we should give to a number of adults the order to draw a straight 
line upon the blackboard, each person would draw a long line proceeding 
in a different direction, some beginning from one side, some from 

another, and almost all would succeed in making the line straight. 
Should we then ask that the line be drawn in a _particular direction_, 
starting from a determined point, the ability shown at first would 
greatly diminish, and we would see many more irregularities, or errors. 
Almost all the lines would be long — for the individual _must needs 
gather impetus_ in order to succeed in making his line straight. 

Should we ask that the lines be made short, and included within precise 
limits, the errors would increase, for we would thus impede the impetus 
which helps to conserve the definite direction. In the methods 
ordinarily used in teaching writing, we add, to such limitations, the 
further restriction that the instrument of writing must be held in a 
certain way, not as instinct prompts each individual. 

Thus we approach in the most conscious and restricted way the first act 
of writing, which should be voluntary. In this first writing we still 
demand that the single strokes be kept parallel, making the child's task 
a difficult and barren one, since it has no purpose for the child, who 
does not understand the meaning of all this detail. 

I had noticed in the note-books of the deficient children in France (and 
Voisin also mentions this phenomenon) that the pages of vertical 
strokes, although they began as such, ended in lines of C's. This goes 
to show that the deficient child, whose mind is less resistant than that 
of the normal child, exhausts, little by little, the initial effort of 
imitation, and the natural movement gradually comes to take the place of 
that which was forced or stimulated. So the straight lines are 
transformed into curves, more and more like the letter C. Such a 
phenomenon does not appear in the copy-books of normal children, for 
they resist, through effort, until the end of the page is reached, and, 
thus, as often happens, conceal the didactic error. 

But let us observe the spontaneous drawings of normal children. When, 
for example, picking up a fallen twig, they trace figures in the sandy 
garden path, we never see short straight lines, but long and variously 
interlaced curves. 

SEguin saw the same phenomenon when the horizontal lines he made his 
pupils draw became curves so quickly instead. And he attributed the 
phenomenon to the imitation of the horizon line! 

That vertical strokes should prepare for alphabetical writing, seems 
incredibly illogical. The alphabet is made up of curves, therefore we 
must prepare for it by learning to make straight lines. 

"But," says someone, "in many letters of the alphabet, the straight line 
does exist," True, but there is no reason why as a beginning of writing, 
we should select one of the details of a complete form. We may analyse 
the alphabetical signs in this way, discovering straight lines and 
curves, as by analysing discourse, we find grammatical rules. But we all 
_speak_ independently of such rules, why then should we not write 
independently of such analysis, and without the separate execution of 
the parts constituting the letter? 

It would be sad indeed if we could _speak_ only _after_ we had studied 
grammar! It would be much the same as demanding that before we _looked_ 
at the stars in the firmament, we must study infinitesimal calculus; it 
is much the same thing to feel that before teaching an idiot to write, 
we must make him understand the abstract derivation of lines and the 
problems of geometry! 

No less are we to be pitied if, in order to write, we must follow 
analytically the parts constituting the alphabetical signs. In fact the 
_effort_ which we believe to be a necessary accompaniment to learning to 
write is a purely artificial effort, allied, not to writing, but to the 
_methods_ by which it is taught. 

Let us for a moment cast aside every dogma in this connection. Let us 

take no note of culture, or custom. We are not, here, interested in 
knowing how humanity began to write, nor what may have been the origin 
of writing itself. Let us put away the conviction, that long usage has 
given us, of the necessity of beginning writing by making vertical 
strokes; and let us try to be as clear and unprejudiced in spirit as 
the truth which, we are seeking. 

"_Let us observe an individual who is writing, and let us seek to 
analyse the acts he performs in writing_," that is, the mechanical 
operations which enter into the execution of writing. This would be 
undertaking the _philosophical study of writing_, and it goes without 
saying that we should examine the individual who writes, not the 
_writing_; the _subject_, not the _object_. Many have begun with the 
object, examining the writing, and in this way many methods have been 

But a method starting from the individual would be decidedly 

original — very different from other methods which preceded it. It would 

indeed signify a new era in writing, _based upon anthropology_. 

In fact, when I undertook my experiments with normal children, if I had 
thought of giving a name to this new method of writing, I should have 
called it without knowing what the results would be, the 
_anthropological method_. Certainly, my studies in anthropology inspired 
the method, but experience has given me, as a surprise, another title 
which seems to me the natural one, "the method of _spontaneous_ 
writing . " 

While teaching deficient children I happened to observe the following 
fact: An idiot girl of eleven years, who was possessed of normal 
strength and motor power in her hands, could not learn to sew, or even 
to take the first step, darning, which consists in passing the needle 
first over, then under the woof, now taking up, now leaving, a number of 

I set the child to weaving with the Froebel mats, in which a strip of 
paper is threaded transversely in and out among vertical strips of paper 
held fixed at top and bottom. I thus came to think of the analogy 
between the two exercises, and became much interested in my observation 
of the girl. When she had become skilled in the Froebel weaving, I led 
her back again to the sewing, and saw with pleasure that she was now 
able to follow the darning. From that time on, our sewing classes began 
with a regular course in the Froebel weaving. 

I saw that the necessary movements of the hand in sewing _had been 
prepared without having the child sew_, and that we should really find 
the way to _teach_ the child _how_, before jnaking him execute_ a task. 
I saw especially that preparatory movements could be carried on, and 
reduced to a mechanism, by means of repeated exercises not in the work 
itself but in that which prepares for it. Pupils could then come to the 
real work, able to perform it without ever having directly set their 
hands to it before. 

I thought that I might in this way prepare for writing, and the idea 
interested me tremendously. I marvelled at its simplicity, and was 
annoyed that _I had not thought before_ of the method which was 
suggested to me by my observation of the girl who could not sew. 

In fact, seeing that I had already taught the children to touch the 
contours of the plane geometric insets, I had now only to teach them to 
touch with their fingers the _forms of the letters of the alphabet_. 

I had a beautiful alphabet manufactured, the letters being in flowing 
script, the low letters 8 centimetres high, and the taller ones in 
proportion. These letters were in wood, 1/2 centimetre in thickness, and 
were painted, the consonants in blue enamel, the vowels in red. The 
under side of these letter-forms, instead of being painted, were covered 
with bronze that they might be more durable. We had only one copy of 

this wooden alphabet; but there were a number of cards upon which the 
letters were painted in the same colours and dimensions as the wooden 
ones. These painted letters were arranged upon the cards in groups, 
according to contrast, or analogy of form. 

Corresponding to each letter of the alphabet, we had a picture 
representing some object the name of which began, with the letter. Above 
this, the letter was painted in large script, and near it, the same 
letter, much smaller and in its printed form. These pictures served to 
fix the memory of the sound of the letter, and the small printed letter 
united to the one in script, was to form the passage to the reading of 
books. These pictures do not, indeed, represent a new idea, but they 
completed an arrangement which did not exist before. Such an alphabet 
was undoubtedly most expensive and when made by hand the cost was fifty 

The interesting part of my experiment was, that after I had shown the 
children how to place the movable wooden letters upon those painted in 
groups upon the cards, I had them _touch them repeatedly in the fashion 
of flowing writing_. 

I multiplied these exercises in various ways, and the children thus 
learned to make _the movements necessary to reproduce the form of the 
graphic signs without writing_. 

I was struck by an idea which had never before entered my mind — that in 
writing we make _two diverse_ forms of movement, for, besides the 
movement by which the form is reproduced, there is also that of 
manipulating the instrument of writing_. And, indeed, when the 
deficient children had become expert in touching all the letters 
according to form, _they did not yet know how to hold a pencil_. To hold 
and to manipulate a little stick securely, corresponds to the 
_acquisition of a special muscular mechanism which is independent of the 
writing movement_; it must in fact go along with the motions necessary 
to produce all of the various letter forms. It is, then, _a distinct 
mechanism_, which must exist together with the motor memory of the 
single graphic signs. When I provoked in the deficients the movements 
characteristic of writing by having them touch the letters with their 
fingers, I exercised mechanically the psycho-motor paths, and fixed the 
muscular memory of each letter. There remained the preparation of the 
muscular mechanism necessary in holding and managing the instrument of 
writing, and this I provoked by adding two periods to the one already 
described. In the second period, the child touched the letter, not only 
with the index finger of his right hand, but with two, the index and the 
middle finger. In the third period, he touched the letters with a little 
wooden stick, held as a pen in writing. In substance I was making him 
repeat the same movements, now with, and now without, holding the 

I have said that the child was to follow the _visual_ image of the 
outlined letter. It is true that his finger had already been trained 
through touching the contours of the geometric figures, but this was not 
always a sufficient preparation. Indeed, even we grown people, when we 
trace a design through glass or tissue paper, cannot follow perfectly 
the line which we see and along which we should draw our pencil. The 
design should furnish some sort of control, some mechanical guide, for 
the pencil, in order to follow with _exactness_ the trace, _sensible in 
reality only to the eye_. 

The deficients, therefore, did not always follow the design exactly with 
either the finger or the stick. The didactic material did not offer _any 
control_ in the work, or rather it offered only the uncertain control of 
the child's glance, which could, to be sure, see if the finger continued 
upon the sign, or not. I now thought that in order to have the pupil 
follow the movements more exactly, and to guide the execution more 
directly, I should need to prepare letter forms so indented, as to 
represent a _furrow_ within which the wooden stick might run. I made the 
designs for this material, but the work being too expensive I was not 

able to carry out my plan. 

After having experimented largely with this method, I spoke of it very 
fully to the teachers in my classes in didactic methods at the State 
Orthophrenic School. These lectures were printed, and I give below the 
words which, though they were placed in the hands of more than 200 
elementary teachers, did not draw from them a single helpful idea. 
Professor Ferreri[14] in an article speaks with amazement of this 
fact. [15] 

[14] G. Ferreri — Per 1 1 insegnamento della scrittura (Sistema della 
Dott M. Montessori) Bollettino dell' Associazione Romana per 
la cura medico — pedigogica dei fanciulli anormali e deficienti 
poveri, anno 1, n. 4, ottobre 1907. Roma Tipografia delle Terme 

[15] Riassunto delle lezion di didattica, della dott. Montessori 
anno 1900, Stab. lit. Romano, via Frattina 62, Disp. 6a, 
pag. 46: "_Lettura e Scrittura simultanee._" 

"At this point we present the cards bearing the vowels painted in red. 
The child sees irregular figures painted in red. We give him the vowels 
in wood, painted red, and have him superimpose these upon the letters 
painted on the card. We have him touch the wooden vowels in the fashion 
of writing, and give him the name of each letter. The vowels are 
arranged on the cards according to analogy of form: 

_o_ _e_ _a_ 
_i_ _u_ 

"We then say to the child, for example, 'Find o. Fat it in its place.' 
Then, 'What letter is this?' We here discover that many children make 
mistakes in the letters if they only look at the letter. 

"They could however tell the letter by touching it. Most interesting 
observations may be made, revealing various individual types: visual, 

"We have the child touch the letters drawn upon the cards, — using first 
the index finger only, then the index with the middle finger, — then with 
a small wooden stick held as a pen. The letter must be traced in the 
fashion of writing. 

"The consonants are painted in blue, and are arranged upon the cards 
according to analogy of form. To these cards are annexed a movable 
alphabet in blue wood, the letters of which are to be placed upon the 
consonants as they were upon the vowels. In addition to these materials 
there is another series of cards, where, besides the consonant, are 
painted one or two figures the names of which begin with that particular 
letter. Near the script letter, is a smaller printed letter painted in 
the same colour. 

"The teacher, naming the consonant according to the phonetic method, 
indicates the letter, and then the card, pronouncing the names of the 
objects painted there, and emphasizing the first letter, as, for 
example, '_p-pear_: give me the consonant _p_ — put it in its place, 
touch it, ' etc. _In all this we study the linguistic defects of the 
child. _ 

"Tracing the letter, in the fashion of writing, begins the muscular 
education which prepares for writing. One of our little girls taught by 
this method has reproduced all the letters with the pen, though she does 
not as yet recognise them all. She has made them about eight centimetres 
high, and with surprising regularity. This child also does well in hand 
work. The child who looks, recognises, and touches the letters in the 
manner of writing, prepares himself simultaneously for reading and 
writing . 

"Touching the letters and looking at them at the same time, fixes the 
image more quickly through the co-operation of the senses. Later, the 
two facts separate; looking becomes reading; touching becomes writing. 
According to the type of the individual, some learn to read first, 
others to write." 

I had thus, about the year 1899, initiated my method for reading and 
writing upon the fundamental lines it still follows. It was with great 
surprise that I noted the _facility_ with which a deficient child, to 
whom I one day gave a piece of chalk, traced upon the blackboard, in a 
firm hand, the letters of the entire alphabet, writing for the first 

This had arrived much more quickly than I had supposed. As I have said, 
some of the children wrote the letters _with a pen and yet could not 
recognise one of them_. I have noticed, also, in normal children, that 
the muscular sense is most easily developed in infancy, and this makes 
writing exceedingly easy for children. It is not so with reading, which 
requires a much longer course of instruction, and which calls for a 
superior intellectual development, since it treats of the 
interpretation of signs_, and of the jnodulation of accents of the 
voice_, in order that the word may be understood. And all this is a 
purely mental task, while in writing, the child, under dictation, 
_materially translates_ sounds into signs, and _moves_, a thing which is 
always easy and pleasant for him. Writing develops in the little child 
with _facility_ and _spontaneity_, analogous to the development of 
spoken language — which is a motor translation of audible sounds. 
Reading, on the contrary, makes part of an abstract intellectual 
culture, which is the interpretation of ideas from graphic symbols, and 
is only acquired later on. 

My first experiments with normal children were begun in the first half 
of the month of November, 1907. 

In the two "Children's Houses" in San Lorenzo, I had, from the date of 
their respective inaugurations (January 6 in one and March 7 in the 
other), used only the games of practical life, and of the education of 
the senses. I had not presented exercises for writing, because, like 
everybody else, I held the prejudice that it was necessary to begin as 
late as possible the teaching of reading and writing, and certainly to 
avoid it before the age of six. 

But the children seemed to demand some _conclusion_ of the exercises, 
which had already developed them intellectually in a most surprising 
way. They knew how to dress and undress, and to bathe, themselves; they 
knew how to sweep the floors, dust the furniture, put the room in order, 
to open and close boxes, to manage the keys in the various locks; they 
could replace the objects in the cupboards in perfect order, could care 
for the plants; they knew how to observe things, and how to see objects 
with their hands. A number of them came to us and frankly demanded to be 
taught to read and write. Even in the face of our refusal several 
children came to school and proudly showed us that they knew how to 
make an on the blackboard. 

Finally, many of the mothers came to beg us as a favour to teach the 
children to write, saying, "Here in the 'Children's Houses' the children 
are awakened, and learn so many things easily that if you only teach 
reading and writing they will soon learn, and will then be spared the 
great fatigue this always means in the elementary school." This faith of 
the mothers, that their little ones would, from us, be _able to learn to 
read and write without fatigue_, made a great impression upon me. 
Thinking upon the results I had obtained in the school for deficients, I 
decided during the August vacation to make a trial upon the reopening of 
the school in September. Upon second thought I decided that it would be 
better to take up the interrupted work in September, and not to approach 
reading and writing until October, when the elementary schools opened. 
This presented the added advantage of permitting us to compare the 
progress of the children of the first elementary with that made by ours, 

who would have begun the same branch of instruction at the same time. 

In September, therefore, I began a search for someone who could 
manufacture didactic materials, but found no one willing to undertake 
it. I wished to have a splendid alphabet made, like the one used with 
the deficients. Giving this up, I was willing to content myself with the 
ordinary enamelled letters used upon shop windows, but I could find them 
in script form nowhere. My disappointments were many. 

So passed the whole mouth of October. The children in the first 
elementary had already filled pages of vertical strokes, and mine were 
still waiting. I then decided to cut out large paper letters, and to 
have one of my teachers colour these roughly on one side with a blue 
tint. As for the touching of the letters, I thought of cutting the 
letters of the alphabet out of sandpaper, and of gluing them upon smooth 
cards, thus making objects much like those used in the primitive 
exercises for the tactile sense. 

Only after I had made these simple things, did I become aware of the 
superiority of this alphabet to that magnificent one I had used for my 
deficients, and in the pursuit of which I had wasted two months! If I 
had been rich, I would have had that beautiful but barren alphabet of 
the past! We wish the old things because we cannot understand the new, 
and we are always seeking after that gorgeousness which belongs to 
things already on the decline, without recognising in the humble 
simplicity of new ideas the germ which shall develop in the future. 

I finally understood that a paper alphabet could easily be multiplied, 
and could be used by many children at one time, not only for the 
recognition of letters, but for the composition of words. I saw that in 
the sandpaper alphabet I had found the looked-for guide for the fingers 
which touched the letter. This was furnished in such a way that no 
longer the sight alone, but the touch, lent itself directly to teaching 
the movement of writing with exactness of control. 

In the afternoon after school, the two teachers and I, with great 
enthusiasm, set about cutting out letters from writing-paper, and others 
from sandpaper. The first, we painted blue, the second, we mounted on 
cards, and, while we worked, there unfolded before my mind a clear 
vision of the method in all its completeness, so simple that it made me 
smile to think I had not seen it before. 

The story of our first attempts is very interesting. One day one of the 
teachers was ill, and I sent as a substitute a pupil of mine, Signorina 
Anna Fedeli, a professor of pedagogy in a Normal school. When I went to 
see her at the close of the day, she showed me two modifications of the 
alphabet which she had made. One consisted in placing behind each 
letter, a transverse strip of white paper, so that the child might 
recognise the direction of the letter, which he often turned about and 
upside down. The other consisted in the making of a cardboard case where 
each letter might be put away in its own compartment, instead of being 
kept in a confused mass as at first. I still keep this rude case made 
from an old pasteboard box, which Signorina Fedeli had found in the 
court and roughly sewed with white thread. 

She showed it to me laughing, and excusing herself for the miserable 
work, but I was most enthusiastic about it. I saw at once that the 
letters in the case were a precious aid to the teaching. Indeed, it 
offered to the eye of the child the possibility of comparing all of the 
letters, and of selecting those he needed. In this way the didactic 
material described below had its origin. 

I need only add that at Christmas time, less than a month and a half 
later, while the children in the first elementary were laboriously 
working to forget their wearisome pothooks and to prepare for making the 
curves of and the other vowels, two of my little ones of four years 
old, wrote, each one in the name of his companions, a letter of good 
wishes and thanks to Signor Edoardo Talamo. These were written upon note 

paper without blot or erasure and the writing was adjudged equal to that 
which is obtained in the third elementary grade. 




_Design Preparatory to Writing. — Didactic Material. _ Small wooden 
tables; metal insets, outline drawings, coloured pencils. I have among 
my materials two little wooden tables, the tops of which form an 
inclined plane sloping toward a narrow cornice, which prevents objects 
placed upon the table from slipping off. The top of each table is just 
large enough to hold four of the square frames, into which the metal 
plane geometric insets are fitted, and is so painted as to represent 
three of these brown frames, each containing a square centre of the same 
dark blue as the centres of the metal insets. 

The metal insets are in dimension and form a reproduction of the series 
of plane geometric insets in wood already described. 

_Exercises_. Placed side by side upon the teacher's desk, or upon one of 
the little tables belonging to the children, these two little tables may 
have the appearance of being one long table containing eight figures. 
The child may select one or more figures, taking at the same time the 
frame of the inset. The analogy between these metal insets and the plane 
geometric insets of wood is complete. But in this case, the child can 
freely use the pieces, where before, he arranged them in the wooden 
frame. He first takes the metal frame, places it upon a sheet of white 
paper, and with a coloured pencil _draws around the contour of the empty 
centre_. Then, he takes away the frame, and upon the paper there remains 
a geometric figure. 

This is the first time that the child has reproduced through design, a 
geometric figure. Until now, he has only placed the geometric insets 
above the figures delineated on the three series of cards. He now places 
upon the figure, which he himself has drawn, the metal inset, just as he 
placed the wooden inset upon the cards. His next act is to follow the 
contour of this inset with a pencil of a different colour. Lifting the 
metal piece, he sees the figure reproduced upon the paper, in two 

Here, for the first time is born the abstract concept of the geometric 
figure, for, from two metal pieces so different in form as the frame and 
the inset, there has resulted the same design, which is a _line_ 
expressing a determined figure. This fact strikes the attention of the 
child. He often marvels to find the same figure reproduced by means of 
two pieces so different, and looks for a long time with evident pleasure 
at the duplicate design — almost as if it were _actually produced_ by the 
objects which serve to guide his hand. 

Besides all this, the child learns _to trace lines_ determining figures. 
There will come a day in which, with still greater surprise and 
pleasure, he will trace graphic signs determining words. 

After this, he begins the work which directly prepares for the formation 
of the muscular mechanism relative to the holding and manipulation of 
the instrument of writing. With a coloured pencil of his own selection, 
held as the pen is held in writing, he _fills in_ the figure which he 
has outlined. We teach him not to pass outside the contour, and in doing 
so we attract his attention to this contour, and thus _fix_ the idea 
that a line may determine a figure. 

The exercise of filling in one figure alone, causes the child to perform 
repeatedly the movement of manipulation which would be necessary to fill 
ten copy-book pages with vertical strokes. And yet, the child feels no 
weariness, because, although he makes exactly the muscular co-ordination 
which is necessary to the work, he does so freely and in any way that he 
wishes, while his eyes are fixed upon a large and brightly coloured 
figure. At first, the children fill pages and pages of paper with these 
big squares, triangles, ovals, trapezoids; colouring them red, orange, 
green, blue, light blue, and pink. 

Gradually they limit themselves to the use of the dark blue and brown, 
both in drawing the figure and in filling it in, thus reproducing the 
appearance of the metal piece itself. Many of the children, quite of 
their own accord, make a little orange-coloured circle in the centre of 
the figure, in this way representing the little brass button by which 
the metal piece is to be held. They take great pleasure in feeling that 
they have reproduced exactly, like true artists, the objects which they 
see before them on the little shelf. 

Observing the successive drawings of a child, there is revealed to us a 
duplicate form of progression: 

_First._ Little by little, the lines tend less and less to go outside 
the enclosing line until, at last, they are perfectly contained within 
it, and both the centre and the frame are filled in with close and 
uniform strokes. 

_Second._ The strokes with which the child fills in the figures, from 
being at first short and confused, become gradually _longer, and more 
nearly parallel_, until in many cases the figures are filled in by means 
of perfectly regular up and down strokes, extending from one side of the 
figure to the other. In such a case, it is evident that the child is 
_master of the pencil_. The muscular mechanism, necessary to the 
management of the instrument of writing, _is established_. We may, 
therefore, by examining such designs, arrive at a clear idea of the 
maturity of the child in the matter of _holding the pencil or pen in 
hand_. To vary these exercises, we use the _outline drawings_ already 
described. Through these designs, the manipulation of the pencil is 
perfected, for they oblige the child to make lines of various lengths, 
and make him more and more secure in his use of the pencil. 

If we could count the lines made by a child in the filling in of these 
figures, and could transform them into the signs used in writing, they 
would fill many, many copy-books! Indeed, the security which our 
children attain is likened to that of children in our ordinary third 
elementary grade. When for the first time they take a pen or a pencil in 
hand, they know how to manage it almost as well as a person who has 
written for a long time. 

I do not believe that any means can be found which will so successfully 
and, in so short a space of time, establish this mastery. And with it 
all, the child is happy and diverted. My old method for the deficients, 
that of following with a small stick the contours of raised letters, 
was, when compared with this, barren and miserable! 

Even when the children _know how to write_ they continue these 
exercises, which furnish an unlimited progression, since the designs may 
be varied and complicated. The children follow in each design 
essentially the same movements, and acquire a varied collection of 
pictures which grow more and more perfect, and of which they are very 
proud. For I not only _provoke_, but perfect, the writing through the 
exercises which we call preparatory. The control of the pen is rendered 
more and more secure, not by repeated exercises in the writing, but by 
means of these filled-in designs. In this way, my children _perfect 
themselves in writing, without actually writing_. 


_Didactic Material. _ Cards upon which the single letters of the alphabet 
are mounted in sandpaper; larger cards containing groups of the same 
letters . 

The cards upon which the sandpaper letters are mounted are adapted in 
size and shape to each letter. The vowels are in light-coloured 
sandpaper and are mounted upon dark cards, the consonants and the groups 
of letters are in black sandpaper mounted upon white cards. The grouping 
is so arranged as to call attention to contrasted, or analogous forms. 

The letters are cut in clear script form, the shaded parts being made 
broader. We have chosen to reproduce the vertical script in use in the 
elementary schools. 

_Exercises._ In teaching the letters of the alphabet, we begin with the 
_vowels_ and proceed to the consonants, pronouncing the _sound_, not the 
name. In the case of the consonants, we immediately unite the sound with 
one of the vowel sounds, repeating the syllable according to the usual 
phonetic method. 

The teaching proceeds according to the three periods already 

_First._ Association of the visual and muscular-tactile sensation with 
the letter sound. 

The directress presents to the child two of the cards upon which vowels 
are mounted (or two of the consonants, as the case may be). Let us 
suppose that we present the letters i and o, saying, "This is i! This is 
o!" As soon as we have given the sound of a letter, we have the child 
trace it, taking care to show him _how_ to trace it, and if necessary 
guiding the index finger of his right hand over the sandpaper letter _in 
the sense of writing_. 

"_Knowing how to trace_" will consist in _knowing the direction_ in 
which a given graphic sign must be followed. 

The child learns quickly, and his finger, already expert in the tactile 
exercise, _is led_, by the slight roughness of the fine sandpaper, over 
the exact track of the letter. _He may then repeat indef initely_ the 
movements necessary to produce the letters of the alphabet, without the 
fear of the mistakes of which a child writing with a pencil for the 
first time is so conscious. If he deviates, the smoothness of the card 
immediately warns him of his error. 

The children, as soon as they have become at all expert in this tracing 
of the letters, take great pleasure in repeating it _with closed eyes_, 
letting the sandpaper lead them in following the form which they do not 
see. Thus the perception will be established by the direct 
muscular-tactile sensation of the letter. In other words, it is no 
longer the visual image of the letter, but the _tactile sensation_, 
which guides the hand of the child in these movements, which thus become 
fixed in the muscular memory. 

There develop, contemporaneously, three sensations when the directress 
_shows the letter_ to the child and has him trace it; the visual 
sensation, the tactile sensation, and the muscular sensation. In this 
way the _image of the graphic sign_ is fixed _in a much shorter space of 
time_ than when it was, according to ordinary methods, acquired only 
through the visual image. It will be found that the _muscular memory_ is 
in the young child the most tenacious and, at the same time, the most 
ready. Indeed, he sometimes recognises the letters by touching them, 
when he cannot do so by looking at them. These images are, besides all 
this, contemporaneously associated with the alphabetical sound. 

_Second._ Perception. _The child should know how to compare and to 
recognise the figures, when he hears the sounds corresponding to them._ 

The directress asks the child, for example, "Give me o! — Give me i!" If 
the child does not recognise the letters by looking at them, she invites 
him to trace them, but if he still does not recognise them, the lesson 
is ended, and may be resumed another day. I have already spoken of the 
necessity of _not revealing_ the error, and of not insisting in the 
teaching when the child does not respond readily. 

_Third._ Language. _Allowing the letters to lie for some instants upon 
the table, the directress asks the child, "What is this?" and he should 
respond, o, i._ 

In teaching the consonants, the directress pronounces only the _sound_, 
and as soon as she has done so unites with it a vowel, pronouncing the 
syllable thus formed and alternating this little exercise by the use of 
different vowels. She must always be careful to emphasize the sound of 
the consonant, repeating it by itself, as, for example, _m_, _m_, _m_, 
_ma_, _me_, _mi_, _m_, _m_. When the child _repeats_ the sound he 
isolates it, and then accompanies it with the vowel. 

It is not necessary to teach all the vowels before passing to the 
consonants, and as soon as the child knows one consonant he may begin to 
compose words. Questions of this sort, however, are left to the judgment 
of the educator. 

I do not find it practical _to follow a special rule_ in the teaching of 
the consonants. Often the curiosity of the child concerning a letter 
leads us to teach that desired consonant; a name pronounced may awaken 
in him a desire to know what consonants are necessary to compose it, and 
this _will_, or _willingness_, of the pupil is a much more _ef f icacious_ 
means than any rule concerning the _progression_ of the letters. 

When the child pronounces _the sounds_ of the consonants, he experiences 
an evident pleasure. It is a great novelty for him, this series of 
sounds, so varied and yet so distinct, _presenting_ such enigmatic signs 
as the letters of the alphabet. There is mystery about all this, which 
provokes most decided interest. One day I was on the terrace while the 
children were having their free games; I had with me a little boy of two 
years and a half left with me, for a moment, by his mother. Scattered 
about upon a number of chairs, were the alphabets which we use in the 
school. These had become mixed, and I was putting the letters back into 
their respective compartments. Having finished my work, I placed the 
boxes upon two of the little chairs near me. The little boy watched me. 
Finally, he drew near to the box, and took one of the letters in his 
hand. It chanced to be an f. At that moment the children, who were 
running in single file, passed us, and, seeing the letter, called out in 
chorus the corresponding sound and passed on. The child paid no 
attention to them, but put back the f and took up an r. The children 
running by again, looked at him laughing, and then began to cry out "r, 
r, r! r, r, r!" Little by little the baby understood that, when he took 
a letter in hand, the children, who were passing, cried out a sound. 
This amused him so much that I wished to observe how long he would 
persist in this game without becoming tired. He kept it up for 
_three-quarters of an hour_! The children had become interested in the 
child, and grouped themselves about him, pronouncing the sounds in 
chorus, and laughing at his pleased surprise. At last, after he had 
several times held up f, and had received from his public the same 
sound, he took the letter again, showing it to me, and saying, "f, f, 
f!" He had learned this from out the great confusion of sounds which he 
had heard; the long letter which had first arrested the attention of the 
running children, had made a great impression upon him. 

It is not necessary to show how the separate pronunciation of the 
alphabetical sounds _reveals_ the condition of the child's speech. 
Defects, which are almost all related to the _incomplete_ development of 

the language itself, manifest themselves, and the directress may take 
note of them one by one. In this way she will be possessed of a record 
of the child's progress, which will help her in her individual teaching, 
and will reveal much concerning the development of the language in this 
particular child. 

In the matter of _correcting linguistic defects_, we will find it 
helpful to follow the physiological rules relating to the child's 
development, and to modify the difficulties in the presentation of our 
lesson. When, however, the child's speech is sufficiently developed, and 
when he _pronounces all the sounds_, it does not matter which of the 
letters we select in our lessons. 

Many of the defects which have become permanent in adults are due to 
_functional errors in the development_ of the language during the period 
of infancy. If, for the attention which we pay to the correction of 
linguistic defects in children in the upper grades, we would substitute 
_a direction of the development of the language_ while the child is 
still young, our results would be much more practical and valuable. In 
fact, many of the defects in pronunciation arise from the use of a 
_dialect_, and these it is almost impossible to correct after the period 
of childhood. They may, however, be most easily removed through the use 
of educational methods especially adapted to the perfecting of the 
language in little children. 

We do not speak here of actual linguistic _defects_ related to 
anatomical or physiological weaknesses, or to pathological facts which 
alter the function of the nervous system. I speak at present only of 
those irregularities which are due to a repetition of incorrect sounds, 
or to the imitation of imperfect pronunciation. Such defects may show 
themselves in the pronunciation of any one of the consonant sounds, and 
I can conceive of no more practical means for a methodical correction of 
speech defects than this exercise in pronunciation, which is a necessary 
part in learning the graphic language through my method. But such 
important questions deserve a chapter to themselves. 

Turning directly to the method used in teaching writing, I may call 
attention to the fact that it is contained in the two periods already 
described. Such exercises have made it possible for the child to learn, 
and to fix, the muscular mechanism necessary to the proper holding of 
the pen, and to the making of the graphic signs. If he has exercised 
himself for a sufficiently long time in these exercises, he will be 
_potentially_ ready to write all the letters of the alphabet and all of 
the simple syllables, without ever having taken chalk or pencil in his 

We have, in addition to this, begun the teaching of _reading_ at the 
same time that we have been teaching _writing_. When we present a letter 
to the child and enunciate its sound, he fixes the image of this letter 
by means of the visual sense, and also by means of the muscular-tactile 
sense. He associates the sound with its relative sign; that is, he 
relates the sound to the graphic sign. But _when he sees and recognises, 
he reads; and when he traces, he writes_. Thus his mind receives as one, 
two acts, which, later on, as he develops, will separate, coming to 
constitute the two diverse processes of _reading and writing_. By 
teaching these two acts contemporaneously, or, better, by their 
_fusion_, we place the child _before a new form of language_ without 
determining which of the acts constituting it should be most prevalent. 

We do not trouble ourselves as to whether the child in the development 
of this process, first learns to read or to write, or if the one or the 
other will be the easier. We must rid ourselves of all preconceptions, 
and must _await from experience_ the answer to these questions. We may 
expect that individual differences will show themselves in the 
prevalence of one or the other act in the development of different 
children. This makes possible the most interesting psychological study 
of the individual, and should broaden the work of this method, which is 
based upon the free expansion of individuality. 


_Didactic Material. _ This consists chiefly of alphabets. The letters of 
the alphabet used here are identical in form and dimension with the 
sandpaper ones already described, but these are cut out of cardboard and 
are not mounted. In this way each letter represents an object which can 
be easily handled by the child and placed wherever he wishes it. There 
are several examples of each letter, and I have designed cases in which 
the alphabets may be kept. These cases or boxes are very shallow, and 
are divided and subdivided into many compartments, in each one of which 
I have placed a group of four copies of the same letter. The 
compartments are not equal in size, but are measured according to the 
dimensions of the letters themselves. At the bottom of each compartment 
is glued a letter which is not to be taken out. This letter is made of 
black cardboard and relieves the child of the fatigue of hunting about 
for the right compartment when he is replacing the letters in the case 
after he has used them. The vowels are cut from blue cardboard, and the 
consonants from red. 

In addition to these alphabets we have a set of the capital letters 
mounted in sandpaper upon cardboard, and another, in which they are cut 
from cardboard. The numbers are treated in the same way. 

[Illustration: (A) TRAINING THE SENSE OF TOUCH. Learning the difference 
between rough and smooth by running fingers alternately over sandpaper 
and smooth cardboard; distinguishing different shapes by fitting 
geometric insets into place; distinguishing textures. (B) LEARNING TO 
WRITE AND READ BY TOUCH. The child at the left is tracing sandpaper 
letters and learning to know them by touch. The boy and girl are making 
words out of cardboard letters.] 

[Illustration: (A) CHILDREN TOUCHING LETTERS. The child on the left 
has acquired lightness and delicacy of touch by very thorough 
preparatory exercises. The one on the right has not had so much 

_Exercises._ As soon as the child knows some of the vowels and the 
consonants we place before him the big box containing all the vowels and 
the consonants which he knows. The directress pronounces very clearly a 
word; for example, "mama," brings out the sound of the m very 
distinctly, repeating the sounds a number of times. Almost always the 
little one with an impulsive movement seizes an m and places it upon the 
table. The directress repeats "ma — ma." The child selects the a and 
places it near the m. He then composes the other syllable very easily. 
But the reading of the word which he has composed is not so easy. 
Indeed, he generally succeeds in reading it only after a _certain 
effort_. In this case I help the child, urging him to read, and reading 
the word with him once or twice, always pronouncing very distinctly, 
_mama, mama_. But once he has understood the mechanism of the game, the 
child goes forward by himself, and becomes intensely interested. We may 
pronounce any word, taking care only that the child understands 
separately the letters of which it is composed. He composes the new 
word, placing, one after the other, the signs corresponding to the 

It is most interesting indeed to watch the child at this work. Intensely 
attentive, he sits watching the box, moving his lips almost 
imperceptibly, and taking one by one the necessary letters, rarely 
committing an error in spelling. The movement of the lips reveals the 
fact that he _repeats to himself an infinite number of times_ the words 
whose sounds he is translating into signs. Although the child is able to 
compose any word which is clearly pronounced, we generally dictate to 
him only those words which are well-known, since we wish his composition 
to result in an idea. When these familiar words are used, he 
spontaneously rereads many times the word he has composed, repeating its 
sounds in a thoughtful, contemplative way. 

The importance of these exercises is very complex. The child analyses, 
perfects, fixes his own spoken language, — placing an object in 
correspondence to every sound which he utters. The composition of the 
word furnishes him with substantial proof of the necessity for clear and 
forceful enunciation. 

The exercise, thus followed, associates the sound which is heard with 
the graphic sign which represents it, and lays a most solid foundation 
for accurate and perfect spelling. 

In addition to this, the composition of the words is in itself an 
exercise of intelligence. The word which is pronounced presents to the 
child a problem which he must solve, and he will do so by remembering 
the signs, selecting them from among others, and arranging them in the 
proper order. He will have the _proof_ of the exact solution of his 
problem when he _rereads_ the word — this word which he has composed, and 
which represents for all those who know how to read it, _an idea_. 

When the child hears others read the word he has composed, he wears an 
expression of satisfaction and pride, and is possessed by a species of 
joyous wonder. He is impressed by this correspondence, carried on 
between himself and others by means of symbols. The written language 
represents for him the highest attainment reached by his own 
intelligence, and is at the same time, the reward of a great 

When the pupil has finished the composition and the reading of the word 
we have him, according to the habits of order which we try to establish 
in connection with all our work, "_put away_" all the letters, each one 
in its own compartment. In composition, pure and simple, therefore, the 
child unites the two exercises of comparison and of selection of the 
graphic signs; the first, when from the entire box of letters before him 
he takes those necessary; the second, when he seeks the compartment in 
which each letter must be replaced. There are, then, three exercises 
united in this one effort, all three uniting to _fix the image of the 
graphic sign_ corresponding to the sounds of the word. The work of 
learning is in this case facilitated in three ways, and the ideas are 
acquired in a third of the time which would have been necessary with 
the old methods. We shall soon see that the child, on hearing the word, 
or on thinking of a word which he already knows, _will see_, with his 
mind's eye, all the letters, necessary to compose the word, arrange 
themselves. He will reproduce this vision with a facility most 
surprising to us. One day a little boy four years old, running alone 
about the terrace, was heard to repeat many times, "To make Zaira, I 
must have z-a-i-r-a." Another time, Professor Di Donato, in a visit to 
the "Children's House," pronounced his own name for a four-year-old 
child. The child was composing the name, using small letters and making 
it all one word, and had begun, thus — _diton_. The professor at once 
pronounced the word more distinctly; di _do_ nato, whereupon the child, 
without scattering the letters, picked up the syllable _to_ and placed 
it to one side, putting _do_ in the empty space. He then placed an _a_ 
after the _n_, and, taking up the _to_ which he had put aside, completed 
the word with it. This made it evident that the child, when the word was 
pronounced more clearly, understood that the syllable _to_ did not 
belong at that place in the word, realised that it belonged at the end 
of the word, and therefore placed it aside until he should need it. This 
was most surprising in a child of four years, and amazed all of those 
present. It can be explained by the clear and, at the same time, complex 
vision of the signs which the child must have, if he is to form a word 
which he hears spoken. This extraordinary act was largely due to the 
orderly mentality which the child had acquired through repeated 
spontaneous exercises tending to develop his intelligence. 

These three periods contain the entire method for the acquisition of 
written language. The significance of such a method is clear. The 
psycho-physiological acts which unite to establish reading and writing 
are prepared separately and carefully. The muscular movements peculiar 

to the making of the signs or letters are prepared apart, and the same 
is true of the manipulation of the instrument of writing. The 
composition of the words, also, is reduced to a psychic mechanism of 
association between images heard and seen. There comes a moment in which 
the child, without thinking of it, fills in the geometric figures with 
an up and down stroke, which is free and regular; a moment in which he 
touches the letters with closed eyes, and in which he reproduces their 
form, moving his finger through the air; a moment in which the 
composition of words has become a psychic impulse, which makes the 
child, even when alone, repeat to himself "To make Zaira I must have 
z-a-i-r-a. " 

Now this child, it is true, _has never written_, but he has mastered all 
the acts necessary to writing. The child who, when taking dictation, not 
only knows how to compose the word, but instantly embraces in his 
thought its composition as a whole, will be able to write, since he 
knows how to make, with his eyes closed, the movements necessary to 
produce these letters, and since he manages almost unconsciously the 
instrument of writing. 

More than this, the freedom with which the child has acquired this 
mechanical dexterity makes it possible for the impulse or spirit to act 
at any time through the medium of his mechanical ability. He should, 
sooner or later, come into his full power by way of a spontaneous 
explosion into writing. This is, indeed, the marvellous reaction which 
has come from my experiment with normal children. In one of the 
"Children's Houses," directed by Signorina Bettini, I had been 
especially careful in the way in which writing was taught, and we have 
had from this school most beautiful specimens of writing, and for this 
reason, perhaps I cannot do better than to describe the development of 
the work in this school. 

One beautiful December day when the sun shone and the air was like 
spring, I went up on the roof with the children. They were playing 
freely about, and a number of them were gathered about me. I was sitting 
near a chimney, and said to a little five-year-old boy who sat beside 
me, "Draw me a picture of this chimney," giving him as I spoke a piece 
of chalk. He got down obediently and made a rough sketch of the chimney 
on the tiles which formed the floor of this roof terrace. As is my 
custom with little children, I encouraged him, praising his work. The 
child looked at me, smiled, remained for a moment as if on the point of 
bursting into some joyous act, and then cried out, "I can write! I can 
write!" and kneeling down again he wrote on the pavement the word 
"hand." Then, full of enthusiasm, he wrote also "chimney," "roof." As he 
wrote, he continued to cry out, "I can write! I know how to write!" His 
cries of joy brought the other children, who formed a circle about him, 
looking down at his work in stupefied amazement. Two or three of them 
said to me, trembling with excitement, "Give me the chalk. I can write 
too." And indeed they began to write various words: _mama_, _hand_, 
_John_, _chimney_, _Ada_. 

Not one of them had ever taken chalk or any other instrument in hand for 
the purpose of writing. It was the _first time_ that they had ever 
written, and they traced an entire word, as a child, when speaking for 
the first time, speaks the entire word. 

The first word spoken by a baby causes the mother ineffable joy. The 
child has chosen perhaps the word "mother," seeming to render thus a 
tribute to maternity. The first word written by my little ones aroused 
within themselves an indescribable emotion of joy. Not being able to 
adjust in their minds the connection between the preparation and the 
act, they were possessed by the illusion that, having now grown to the 
proper size, they knew how to write. In other words, writing seemed to 
them only one among the many gifts of nature. 

They believe that, as they grow bigger and stronger, there will come 
some beautiful day when they _shall know how to write_. And, indeed, 
this is what it is in reality. The child who speaks, first prepares 

himself unconsciously, perfecting the psycho-muscular mechanism which 
leads to the articulation of the word. In the case of writing, the child 
does almost the same thing, but the direct pedagogical help and the 
possibility of preparing the movements for writing in an almost material 
way, causes the ability to write to develop much more rapidly and more 
perfectly than the ability to speak correctly. 

In spite of the ease with which this is accomplished, the preparation is 
not partial, but complete. The child possesses _all_ the movements 
necessary for writing. And written language develops not gradually, but 
in an explosive way; that is, the child can write _any word_. Such was 
our first experience in the development of the written language in our 
children. Those first days we were a prey to deep emotions. It seemed as 
if we walked in a dream, and as if we assisted at some miraculous 

The child who wrote a word for the first time was full of excited joy. 
He might be compared to the hen who has just laid an egg. Indeed, no one 
could escape from the noisy manifestations of the little one. He would 
call everyone to see, and if there were some who did not go, he ran to 
take hold of their clothes forcing them to come and see. We all had to 
go and stand about the written word to admire the marvel, and to unite 
our exclamations of surprise with the joyous cries of the fortunate 
author. Usually, this first word was written on the floor, and, then, 
the child knelt down before it in order to be nearer to his work and to 
contemplate it more closely. 

After the first word, the children, with a species of frenzied joy, 
continued to write everywhere. I saw children crowding about one another 
at the blackboard, and behind the little ones who were standing on the 
floor another line would form consisting of children mounted upon 
chairs, so that they might write above the heads of the little ones. In 
a fury at being thwarted, other children, in order to find a little 
place where they might write, overturned the chairs upon which their 
companions were mounted. Others ran toward the window shutters or the 
door, covering them with writing. In these first days we walked upon a 
carpet of written signs. Daily accounts showed us that the same thing 
was going on at home, and some of the mothers, in order to save their 
pavements, and even the crust of their loaves upon which they found 
words written, made their children presents of _paper_ and _pencil_. One 
of these children brought to me one day a little note-book entirely 
filled with writing, and the mother told me that the child had written 
all day long and all evening, and had gone to sleep in his bed with the 
paper and pencil in his hand. 

This impulsive activity which we could not, in those first days control, 
made me think upon the wisdom of Nature, who develops the spoken 
language little by little, letting it go hand in hand with the gradual 
formation of ideas. Think of what the result would have been had Nature 
acted imprudently as I had done! Suppose Nature had first allowed the 
human being to gather, by means of the senses, a rich and varied 
material, and to acquire a store of ideas, and had then completely 
prepared in him the means for articulate language, saying finally to the 
child, mute until that hour, "Go — Speak!" The result would have been a 
species of sudden madness, under the influence of which the child, 
feeling no restraints, would have burst into an exhausting torrent of 
the most strange and difficult words. 

I believe, however, that there exists between the two extremes a happy 
medium which is the true and practical way. We should lead the child 
more gradually to the conquest of written language, yet we should still 
have it come as a _spontaneous fact_, and his work should from the first 
be almost perfect. 

Experience has shown us how to control this phenomenon, and how to lead 
the child more _calmly_ to this new power. The fact that the children 
_see_ their companions writing, leads them, through imitation, to write 
_as soon as_ they can. In this way, when the child writes he does not 

have the entire alphabet at his disposal, and the number of words which 
he can write is limited. He is not even capable of making all of the 
words possible through a combination of the letters which he does know. 
He still has the great joy of the _first written word_, but this is no 
longer the source of _an overwhelming surprise_, since he sees just such 
wonderful things happening each day, and knows that sooner or later the 
same gift will come to all. This tends to create a calm and ordered 
environment, still full of beautiful and wonderful surprises. 

Making a visit to the "Children's House," even during the opening weeks, 
one makes fresh discoveries. Here, for instance, are two little 
children, who, though they fairly radiate pride and joy, are writing 
tranquilly. Yet, these children, until yesterday, had never thought of 
writing ! 

The directress tells me that one of them began to write yesterday 
morning at eleven o'clock, the other, at three in the afternoon. We have 
come to accept the phenomenon with calmness, and tacitly recognise it as 
a _natural form of the child's developments 

The wisdom of the teacher shall decide when it is necessary to encourage 
a child to write. This can only be when he is already perfect in the 
three periods of the preparatory exercise, and yet does not write of his 
own accord. There is danger that in retarding the act of writing, the 
child may plunge finally into a tumultuous effort, due to the fact that 
he knows the entire alphabet and has no natural check. 

The signs by which the teacher may almost precisely diagnose the child's 
maturity in this respect are: the _regularity_ of the _parallel_ lines 
which fill in the geometric figures; the recognition with closed eyes of 
the sandpaper letters; the security and readiness shown in the 
composition of words. Before intervening by means of a direct invitation 
to write, it is best to wait at least a week in the hope that the child 
may write spontaneously. When he has begun to write spontaneously the 
teacher may intervene to _guide_ the progress of the writing. The first 
help which she may give is that of _ruling_ the blackboard, so that the 
child may be led to maintain regularity and proper dimensions in his 
writing . 

The second, is that of inducing the child, whose writing is not firm, to 
_repeat the tracing_ of the sandpaper letters. She should do this 
instead of _directly_ correcting his actual writing, for the child does 
not perfect himself by repeating the act of writing, but by repeating 
the acts preparatory to writing. I remember a little beginner who, 
wishing to make his blackboard writing perfect, brought all of the 
sandpaper letters with him, and before writing touched two or three 
times _all of the letters needed in the words he wished to write_. If a 
letter did not seem to him to be perfect he erased it and _retouched_ 
the letter upon the card before rewriting. 

Our children, even after they have been writing for a year, continue to 
repeat the three preparatory exercises. They thus learn both to write, 
and to perfect their writing, without really going through the actual 
act. With our children, actual writing is a test; it springs from an 
inner impulse, and from the pleasure of explaining a superior activity; 
it is not an exercise. As the soul of the mystic perfects itself through 
prayer, even so in our little ones, that highest expression of 
civilisation, written language, is acquired and improved through 
exercises which are akin to, but which are not, writing. 

There is educational value in this idea of preparing oneself before 
trying, and of perfecting oneself before going on. To go forward 
correcting his own mistakes, boldly attempting things which he does 
imperfectly, and of which he is as yet unworthy dulls the sensitiveness 
of the child's spirit toward his own errors. My method of writing 
contains an educative concept; teaching the child that prudence which 
makes him avoid errors, that dignity which makes him look ahead, and 
which guides him to perfection, and that humility which unites him 

closely to those sources of good through which alone he can make a 
spiritual conquest, putting far from him the illusion that the 
immediate success is ample justification for continuing in the way he 
has chosen. 

The fact that all the children, those who are just beginning the three 
exercises and those who have been writing for months, daily repeat the 
same exercise, unites them and makes it easy for them to meet upon an 
apparently equal plane. Here there are no _distinctions_ of beginners, 
and experts. All of the children fill in the figures with coloured 
pencils, touch the sandpaper letters and compose words with the movable 
alphabets; the little ones beside the big ones who help them. He who 
prepares himself, and he who perfects himself, both follow the same 
path. It is the same way in life, for, deeper than any social 
distinction, there lies an equality, a common meeting point, where all 
men are brothers, or, as in the spiritual life, aspirants and saints 
again and again pass through the same experiences. 

Writing is very quickly learned, because we begin to teach it only to 
those children who show a desire for it by spontaneous attention to the 
lesson given by the directress to other children, or by watching the 
exercises in which the others are occupied. Some individuals _learn_ 
without ever having received any lessons, solely through listening to 
the lessons given to others. 

In general, all children of four are intensely interested in writing, 
and some of our children have begun to write at the age of three and a 
half. We find the children particularly enthusiastic about tracing the 
sandpaper letters. 

During the first period of my experiments, when the children were shown 
the alphabet _for the first time_, I one day asked Signorina Bettini to 
bring out to the terrace where the children were at play, all of the 
various letters which she herself had made. As soon as the children saw 
them they gathered about us, their fingers outstretched in their 
eagerness to touch the letters. Those who secured cards were unable to 
touch them properly because of the other children, who crowded about 
trying to reach the cards in our laps. I remember with what an impulsive 
movement the possessors of the cards held them on high like banners, and 
began to march, followed by all the other children who clapped their 
hands and cried out joyously. The procession passed before us, and all, 
big and little, laughed merrily, while the mothers, attracted by the 
noise, leaned from the windows to watch the sight. 

The average time that elapses between the first trial of the preparatory 
exercises and the first written word is, for children of four years, 
from a month to a month and a half. With children of five years, the 
period is much shorter, being about a month. But one of our pupils 
learned to use in writing all the letters of the alphabet in twenty 
days. Children of four years, after they have been in school for two 
months and a half, can write any word from dictation, and can pass to 
writing with ink in a note-book. Our little ones are generally experts 
after three months' time, and those who have written for six months may 
be compared to the children in the third elementary. Indeed, writing is 
one of the easiest and most delightful of all the conquests made by the 

If adults learned as easily as children under six years of age, it would 
be an easy matter to do away with illiteracy. We would probably find two 
grave hinderances to the attainment of such a brilliant success: the 
torpor of the muscular sense, and those permanent defects of spoken 
language, which would be sure to translate themselves into the written 
language. I have not made experiments along this line, but I believe 
that one school year would be sufficient to lead an illiterate person, 
not only to write, but to express his thoughts in written language. 

So much for the time necessary for learning. As to the execution, our 
children _write well_ from the moment in which they begin. The _form_ of 

the letters, beautifully rounded and flowing, is surprising in its 
similarity to the form of the sandpaper models. The beauty of our 
writing is rarely equalled by any scholars in the elementary schools, 
_who have not had special exercises in penmanship_. I have made a close 
study of penmanship, and I know how difficult it would be to teach 
pupils of twelve or thirteen years to write an entire word without 
lifting the pen, except for the few letters which require this. The up 
and down strokes with which they have filled their copy-book make 
flowing writing almost impossible to them. 

Our little pupils, on the other hand, spontaneously, and with a 
marvellous security, write entire words without lifting the pen, 
maintaining perfectly the slant of the letters, and making the distance 
between each letter equal. This has caused more than one visitor to 
exclaim, "If I had not seen it I should never have believed it." Indeed, 
penmanship is a superior form of teaching and is necessary to correct 
defects already acquired and fixed. It is a long work, for the child, 
_seeing_ the model, must follow the _movements_ necessary to reproduce 
it, while there is no direct correspondence between the visual sensation 
and the movements which he must make. Too often, penmanship is taught at 
an age when all the defects have become established, and when the 
physiological period in which the _muscular memory_ is ready, has been 
passed . 

We directly prepare the child, not only for writing, but also for 
_penmanship_, paying great attention to the _beauty of form_ (having the 
children touch the letters in script form) and to the flowing quality 
of the letters. (The exercises in filling-in prepare for this.) 


_Didactic Material. _ The Didactic Material for the lessons in reading 
consists in slips of paper or cards upon which are written in clear, 
large script, words and phrases. In addition to these cards we have a 
great variety of toys. 

Experience has taught me to distinguish clearly between _writing and 
reading_, and has shown me that the two acts _are not absolutely 
contemporaneous^ Contrary to the usually accepted idea, writing 
_precedes reading_. I do not consider as _reading_ the test which the 
child makes _when he verifies_ the word that he has written. He is 
translating signs into sounds, as he first translated sounds into signs. 
In this verification he already knows the word and has repeated it to 
himself while writing it. What I understand by reading is the 
_interpretation_ of an idea from the written signs. The child who has 
not heard the word pronounced, and who recognises it when he sees it 
composed upon the table with the cardboard letters, and who can tell 
what it means; this child _reads_. The word which he reads has the same 
relation to written language that the word which he hears bears to 
articulate language. Both serve to _receive the language_ transmitted to 
us _by others_. So, until the child reads a transmission of ideas from 
the written word, _he does not read_. 

We may say, if we like, that writing as described is a fact in which the 
psycho-motor mechanism prevails, while in reading, there enters a work 
which is purely intellectual. But it is evident how our method for 
writing prepares for reading, making the difficulties almost 
imperceptible. Indeed, writing prepares the child to interpret 
mechanically the union of the letter sounds of which the written word is 
composed. When a child in our school knows how to write, _he knows how 
to read the sounds_ of which the word is composed. It should be noticed, 
however, that when the child composes the words with the movable 
alphabet, or when he writes, he has _time to think_ about the signs 
which he must select to form the word. The writing of a word requires a 
great deal more time than that necessary for reading the same word. 

The child who _knows how to write_, when placed before a word which he 

must interpret by reading, is silent for a long time, and generally 
reads the component sounds with the same slowness with which he would 
have written them. But _the sense of the word_ becomes evident only when 
it is pronounced clearly and with the phonetic accent. Now, in order to 
place the phonetic accent the child must recognise the word; that is, he 
must recognise the idea which the word represents. The intervention of a 
superior work of the intellect is necessary if he is to read. Because of 
all this, I proceed in the following way with the exercises in reading, 
and, as will be evident, I do away entirely with the old-time primer. 

I prepare a number of little cards made from ordinary writing-paper. On 
each of these I write in large clear script some well-known word, one 
which has already been pronounced many times by the children, and which 
represents an object actually present or well known to them. If the word 
refers to an object which is before them, I place this object under the 
eyes of the child, in order to facilitate his interpretation of the 
word. I will say, in this connection, the objects used in these writing 
games are for the most part toys of which we have a great many in the 
"Children's Houses." Among these toys, are the furnishings of a doll's 
house, balls, dolls, trees, flocks of sheep, or various animals, tin 
soldiers, railways, and an infinite variety of simple figures. 

If writing serves to correct, or better, to direct and perfect the 
mechanism of the articulate language of the child, reading serves to 
help the development of ideas, and relates them to the development of 
the language. Indeed, writing aids the physiological language and 
reading aids the social language. 

We begin, then, as I have indicated, with the nomenclature, that is, 
with the reading of names of objects which are well known or present. 

There is no question of beginning with words that are _easy or 
difficulty for the _child already knows how to read any word_; that is, 
he knows how to read _the sounds which compose it_. I allow the little 
one to translate the written word slowly into sounds, and if the 
interpretation is exact, I limit myself to saying, "Faster." The child 
reads more quickly the second time, but still often without 
understanding. I then repeat, "Faster, faster." He reads faster each 
time, repeating the same accumulation of sounds, and finally the word 
bursts upon his consciousness. Then he looks upon it as if he recognised 
a friend, and assumes that air of satisfaction which so often radiates 
our little ones. This completes the exercise for reading. It is a lesson 
which goes very rapidly, since it is only presented to a child who is 
already prepared through writing. Truly, we have buried the tedious and 
stupid ABC primer side by side with the useless copy-books! 

When the child has read the word, he places the explanatory card under 
the object whose name it bears, and the exercise is finished. 

One of our most interesting discoveries was made in the effort to devise 
a game through which the children might, without effort, learn to read 
words. We spread out upon one of the large tables a great variety of 
toys. Each one of them had a corresponding card upon which the name of 
the toy was written. We folded these little cards and mixed them up in a 
basket, and the children who knew how to read were allowed to take turns 
in drawing these cards from the basket. Each child had to carry his card 
back to his desk, unfold it quietly, and read it mentally, not showing 
it to those about him. He then had to fold it up again, so that the 
secret which it contained should remain unknown. Taking the folded card 
in his hand, he went to the table. He had then to pronounce clearly the 
name of a toy and present the card to the directress in order that she 
might verify the word he had spoken. The little card thus became current 
coin with which he might acquire the toy he had named. For, if he 
pronounced the word clearly and indicated the correct object, the 
directress allowed him to take the toy, and to play with it as long as 
he wished. 

When each child had had a turn, the directress called the first child 

and let him draw a card from another basket. This card he read as soon 
as he had drawn it. It contained the name of one of his companions who 
did not yet know how to read, and for that reason could not have a toy. 
The child who had read the name then offered to his little friend the 
toy with which he had been playing. We taught the children to present 
these toys in a gracious and polite way, accompanying the act with a 
bow. In this way we did away with every idea of class distinction, and 
inspired the sentiment of kindness toward those who did not possess the 
same blessings as ourselves. This reading game proceeded in a 
marvellous way. The contentment of these poor children in possessing 
even for a little while such beautiful toys can be easily imagined. 

But what was my amazement, when the children, having learned to 
understand the written cards, _refused_ to take the toys! They explained 
that they did not wish to waste time in playing, and, with a species of 
insatiable desire, preferred to draw out and read the cards one after 
another ! 

I watched them, seeking to understand the secret of these souls, of 
whose greatness I had been so ignorant! As I stood in meditation among 
the eager children, the discovery that it was knowledge they loved, and 
not the silly _game_, filled me with wonder and made me think of the 
greatness of the human soul! 

We therefore put away the toys, and set about making _hundreds_ of 
written slips, containing names of children, cities, and objects; and 
also of colours and qualities known through the sense exercises. We 
placed these slips in open boxes, which we left where the children could 
make free use of them. I expected that childish inconstancy would at 
least show itself in a tendency to pass from one box to another; but no, 
each child finished emptying the box under his hand before passing to 
another, being verily _insatiable_ in the desire to read. 

Coming into the school one day, I found that the directress had allowed 
the children to take the tables and chairs out upon the terrace, and was 
having school in the open air. A number of little ones were playing in 
the sun, while others were seated in a circle about the tables 
containing the sandpaper letters and the movable alphabet. 

A little apart sat the directress, holding upon her lap a long narrow 
box full of written slips, and all along the edge of her box were little 
hands, fishing for the beloved cards. "You may not believe me," said the 
directress, "but it is more than an hour since we began this, and they 
are not satisfied yet!" We tried the experiment of bringing balls, and 
dolls to the children, but without result; such futilities had no power 
beside the joys of _knowledge_. 

Seeing these surprising results, I had already thought of testing the 
children with print, and had suggested that the directress _print_ the 
word under the written word upon a number of slips. But the children 
forestalled us! There was in the hall a calendar upon which many of the 
words were printed in clear type, while others were done in Gothic 
characters. In their mania for reading the children began to look at 
this calendar, and, to my inexpressible amazement, read not only the 
print, but the Gothic script. 

There therefore remained nothing but the presentation of a book, and I 
did not feel that any of those available were suited to our method. 

The mothers soon had proofs of the progress of their children; finding 
in the pockets of some of them little slips of paper upon which were 
written rough notes of marketing done; bread, salt, etc. Our children 
were making lists of the marketing they did for their mothers! Other 
mothers told us that their children no longer ran through the streets, 
but stopped to read the signs over the shops. 

A four-year-old boy, educated in a private house by the same method, 
surprised us in the following way. The child's father was a Deputy, and 

received many letters. He knew that his son had for two months been 
taught by means of exercises apt to facilitate the learning of reading 
and writing, but he had paid slight attention to it, and, indeed, put 
little faith in the method. One day, as he sat reading, with the boy 
playing near, a servant entered, and placed upon the table a large 
number of letters that had just arrived. The little boy turned his 
attention to these, and holding up each letter read aloud the address. 
To his father this seemed a veritable miracle. 

As to the average time required for learning to read and write, 
experience would seem to show that, starting from the moment in which 
the child writes, the passage from such an inferior stage of the graphic 
language to the superior state of reading averages a fortnight. 
_Security_ in reading is, however, arrived at much more slowly than 
perfection in writing. In the greater majority of cases the child who 
writes beautifully, still reads rather poorly. 

Not all children of the same age are at the same point in this matter of 
reading and writing. We not only do not force a child, but we do not 
even _invite_ him, or in any way attempt to coax him to do that which he 
does not wish to do. So it sometimes happens that certain children, _not 
having spontaneously presented themselves_ for these lessons, are left 
in peace, and do not know how to read or write. 

If the old-time method, which tyrannized over the will of the child and 
destroyed his spontaneity, does not believe in making a knowledge of 
written language _obligatory_ before the age of six, much less do we! 

I am not ready to decide, without a wider experience, whether the period 
when the spoken language is fully developed is, in every case, the 
proper time for beginning to develop the written language. 

In any case, almost all of the normal children treated with our method 
begin to write at four years, and at five know how to read and write, at 
least as well as children who have finished the first elementary. They 
could enter the second elementary a year in advance of the time when 
they are admitted to first. 

_Games for the Reading of Phrases. _ As soon as my friends saw that the 
children could read print, they made me gifts of beautifully illustrated 
books. Looking through these books of simple fairy lore, I felt sure 
that the children would not be able to understand them. The teachers, 
feeling entirely satisfied as to the ability of their pupils, tried to 
show me I was wrong, having different children read to me, and saying 
that they read much more perfectly than the children who had finished 
the second elementary. 

I did not, however, allow myself to be deceived, and made two trials. I 
first had the teacher tell one of the stories to the children while I 
observed to what extent they were spontaneously interested in it. The 
attention of the children wandered after a few words. I had _forbidden_ 
the teacher to recall to order those who did not listen, and thus, 
little by little, a hum arose in the schoolroom, due to the fact that 
each child, not caring to listen had returned to his usual _occupation_. 

It was evident that the children, who seemed to read these books with 
such pleasure, _did not take pleasure in the sense_, but enjoyed the 
mechanical ability they had acquired, which consisted in translating the 
graphic signs into the sounds of a word they recognised. And, indeed, 
the children did not display the same _constancy_ in the reading of 
books which they showed toward the written slips, since in the books 
they met with so many unfamiliar words. 

My second test, was to have one of the children read the book to me. I 
did not interrupt with any of those explanatory remarks by means of 
which a teacher tries to help the child follow the thread of the story 
he is reading, saying for example: "Stop a minute. Do you understand? 
What have you read? You told me how the little boy went to drive in a 

big carriage, didn't you? Pay attention to what the book says, etc." 

I gave the book to a little boy, sat down beside him in a friendly 
fashion, and when he had read I asked him simply and seriously as one 
would speak to a friend, "Did you understand what you were reading?" He 
replied: "No." But the expression of his face seemed to ask an 
explanation of my demand. In fact, the idea that _through the reading of 
a series of words the complex thoughts of others might be communicated 
to us_, was to be for my children one of the beautiful conquests of the 
future, a new source of surprise and joy. 

The _book_ has recourse to _logical language_, not to the mechanism of 
the language. Before the child can understand and enjoy a book, the 
_logical language_ must be established in him. Between knowing how to 
read the _words_, and how to read the _sense_, of a book there lies the 
same distance that exists between knowing how to pronounce a word and 
how to make a speech. I, therefore, stopped the reading from books and 
waited . 

One day, during a free conversation period, _four_ children arose at the 
same time and with expressions of joy on their faces ran to the 
blackboard and wrote phrases upon the order of the following: 

"Oh, how glad we are that our garden has begun to bloom." It was a great 
surprise for me, and I was deeply moved. These children had arrived 
spontaneously at the art of _composition_, just as they had 
spontaneously written their first word. 

The mechanical preparation was the same, and the phenomenon developed 
logically. Logical articulate language had, when the time was ripe, 
provoked the corresponding explosion in written language. 

I understood that the time had come when we might proceed to _the 
reading of phrases_. I had recourse to the means used by the children; 
that is, I wrote upon the blackboard, "Do you love me?" The children 
read it slowly aloud, were silent for a moment as if thinking, then 
cried out, "Yes! Yes!" I continued to write; "Then make the silence, and 
watch me." They read this aloud, almost shouting, but had barely 
finished when a solemn silence began to establish itself, interrupted 
only by the sounds of the chairs as the children took positions in which 
they could sit quietly. Thus began between me and them a communication 
by means of written language, a thing which interested the children 
intensely. Little by little, they _discovered_ the great quality of 
writing — that it transmits thought. Whenever I began to write, they 
fairly _trembled_ in their eagerness to understand what was my meaning 
without hearing me speak a word. 

Indeed, _graphic_ language does not need spoken words. It can only be 
understood in all its greatness when it is completely isolated from 
spoken language. 

This introduction to reading was followed by the following game, which 
is greatly enjoyed by the children. Upon a number of cards I wrote long 
sentences describing certain actions which the children were to carry 
out; for example, "Close the window blinds; open the front door; then 
wait a moment, and arrange things as they were at first." "Very politely 
ask eight of your companions to leave their chairs, and to form in 
double file in the centre of the room, then have them march forward and 
back on tiptoe, making no noise." "Ask three of your oldest companions 
who sing nicely, if they will please come into the centre of the room. 
Arrange them in a nice row, and sing with them a song that you have 
selected," etc., etc. As soon as I finished writing, the children seized 
the cards, and taking them to their seats read them spontaneously with 
great intensity of attention, and all _amid the most complete silence_. 

I asked then, "Do you understand?" "Yes! Yes!" "Then do what the card 
tells you," said I, and was delighted to see the children rapidly and 
accurately follow the chosen action. A great activity, a movement of a 

new sort, was born in the room. There were those who closed the blinds, 
and then reopened them; others who made their companions run on tiptoe, 
or sing; others wrote upon the blackboard, or took certain objects from 
the cupboards. Surprise and curiosity produced a general silence, and 
the lesson developed amid the most intense interest. It seemed as if 
some magic force had gone forth from me stimulating an activity hitherto 
unknown. This magic was graphic language, the greatest conquest of 

And how deeply the children understood the importance of it! When I went 
out, they gathered about me with expressions of gratitude and affection, 
saying, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for the lesson!" 

This has become one of the favourite games: We first establish _profound 
silence_, then present a basket containing folded slips, upon each one 
of which is written a long phrase describing an action. All those 
children who know how to read may draw a slip, and read it _mentally_ 
once or twice until they are certain they understand it. They then give 
the slip back to the directress and set about carrying out the action. 
Since many of these actions call for the help of the other children who 
do not know how to read, and since many of them call for the handling 
and use of the materials, a general activity develops amid marvellous 
order, while the silence is only interrupted by the sound of little feet 
running lightly, and by the voices of the children who sing. This is an 
unexpected revelation of the perfection of spontaneous discipline. 

Experience has shown us that _composition_ must _precede logical_ 
reading, as writing preceded the reading of the word. It has also shown 
that reading, if it is to teach the child to _receive an idea_, should 
be _mental_ and not _vocal_. 

Reading aloud implies the exercise of two mechanical forms of the 
language — articulate and graphic — and is, therefore, a complex task. Who 
does not know that a grown person who is to read a paper in public 
prepares for this by making himself master of the content? Reading aloud 
is one of the most difficult intellectual actions. The child, therefore, 
who _begins_ to read by interpreting thought _should read mentally_. The 
written language must isolate itself from the articulate, when it rises 
to the interpretation of logical thought. Indeed, it represents the 
language which _transmits thought at a distance_, while the senses and 
the muscular mechanism are silent. It is a spiritualised language, which 
puts into communication all men who know how to read. 

Education having reached such a point in the "Children's Houses," the 
entire elementary school must, as a logical consequence, be changed. How 
to reform the lower grades in the elementary schools, eventually 
carrying them on according to our methods, is a great question which 
cannot be discussed here. I can only say that the _first elementary_ 
would be completely done away with by our infant education, which 
includes it. 

The elementary classes in the future should begin with children such as 
ours who know how to read and write; children who know how to take care 
of themselves; how to dress and undress, and to wash themselves; 
children who are familiar with the rules of good conduct and courtesy, 
and who are thoroughly disciplined in the highest sense of the term, 
having developed, and become masters of themselves, through liberty; 
children who possess, besides a perfect mastery of the articulate 
language, the ability to read written language in an elementary way, and 
who begin to enter upon the conquest of logical language. 

These children pronounce clearly, write in a firm hand, and are full of 
grace in their movements. They are the earnest of a humanity grown in 
the cult of beauty — the infancy of an all-conquering humanity, since 
they are intelligent and patient observers of their environment, and 
possess in the form of intellectual liberty the power of spontaneous 

For such children, we should found an elementary school worthy to 
receive them and to guide them further along the path of life and of 
civilisation, a school loyal to the same educational principles of 
respect for the freedom of the child and for his spontaneous 
manifestations — principles which shall form the personality of these 
little men. 

[Illustration: Example of writing done with pen, by a child five years. 
One-fourth reduction. 

Translation: "We would like to wish a joyous Easter to the civil 
engineer Edoardo Talamo and the Princess Maria. We will ask them to 
bring their pretty children here. Leave it to me: I will write for all. 
April 7, 1909."] 


Graphic language, comprising dictation and reading, contains articulate 
language in its complete mechanism (auditory channels, central channels, 
motor channels), and, in the manner of development called forth by my 
method, is based essentially on articulate language. 

Graphic language, therefore, may be considered from two points of view: 

(_a_) That of the conquest of a new language of eminent social 
importance which adds itself to the articulate language of natural man; 
and this is the cultural significance which is commonly given to graphic 
language, which is therefore taught in the schools without any 
consideration of its relation to spoken language, but solely with the 
intention of offering to the social being a necessary instrument in his 
relations with his fellows. 

(_b_) That of the relation between graphic and articulate language and, 
in this relation, of an eventual possibility of utilising the written 
language to perfect the spoken: a new consideration upon which I wish to 
insist and which gives to graphic language a _physiological importance_. 

Moreover, as spoken language is at the same time a _natural function_ of 
man and an instrument which he utilises for social ends, so written 
language may be considered in itself, in its _formation_, as an organic 
_ensemble_ of new mechanisms which are established in the nervous 
system, and as an instrument which may be utilised for social ends. 

In short, it is a question of giving to written language not only a 
physiological importance, but also a _period of development_ independent 
of the high functions which it is destined to perform later. 

It seems to me that graphic language bristles with difficulties in its 
beginning, not only because it has heretofore been taught by irrational 
methods, but because we have tried to make it perform, as soon as it has 
been acquired, the high function of teaching _the written language_ 
which has been fixed by centuries of perfecting in a civilised people. 

Think how irrational have been the methods we have used! We have 
analysed the graphic signs rather than the physiological acts necessary 
to produce the alphabetical signs; and this without considering that 
_any graphic sign_ is difficult to achieve, because the visual 
representation of the signs have no hereditary connection with the motor 
representations necessary for producing them; as, for example, the 
auditory representations of the word have with the motor mechanism of 
the articulate language. It is, therefore, always a difficult thing to 

provoke a stimulative motor action unless we have already established 
the movement before the visual representation of the sign is made. It is 
a difficult thing to arouse an activity that shall produce a motion 
unless that motion shall have been previously established by practice 
and by the power of habit. 

Thus, for example, the analysis of writing into _little straight lines 
and curves_ has brought us to present to the child a sign without 
significance, which therefore does not interest him, and whose 
representation is incapable of determining a spontaneous motor impulse. 
The artificial act constituted, therefore, an _effort_ of the will which 
resulted for the child in rapid exhaustion exhibited in the form of 
boredom and suffering. To this effort was added the effort of 
constituting _synchronously_ the muscular associations co-ordinating the 
movements necessary to the holding and manipulating the instrument of 
writing . 

All sorts of _depressing_ feelings accompanied such efforts and conduced 
to the production of imperfect and erroneous signs which the teachers 
had to correct, discouraging the child still more with the constant 
criticism of the error and of the imperfection of the signs traced. 
Thus, while the child was urged to make an effort, the teacher depressed 
rather than revived his psychical forces. 

Although such a mistaken course was followed, the graphic language, so 
painfully learned, was nevertheless to be _immediately_ utilised for 
social ends; and, still imperfect and immature, was made to do service 
in the _syntactical construction of the language_, and in the ideal 
expression of the superior psychic centres. One must remember that in 
nature the spoken language is formed gradually; and it is already 
established in _words_ when the superior psychic centres use these words 
in what Kussmaul calls _dictorium_, in the syntactical grammatical 
formation of language which is necessary to the expression of complex 
ideas; that is, in the language of the _logical mind_. 

In short the mechanism of language is a necessary antecedent of the 
higher psychic activities which are to _utilise it_. 

There are, therefore, two periods in the development of language: a 
lower one which prepares the nervous channel and the central mechanisms 
which are to put the sensory channels in relation with the motor 
channels; and a higher one determined by the higher psychic activities 
which are _exteriorized_ by means of the preformed mechanisms of 


Thus for example in the scheme which Kussmaul gives on the mechanism of 
articulate language we must first of all distinguish a sort of cerebral 
diastaltic arc (representing the pure mechanism of the word), which is 
established in the first formation of the spoken language. Let E be the 
ear, and T the motor organs of speech, taken as a whole and here 
represented by the tongue, A the auditory centre of speech, and M the 
motor centre. The channels EA and MT are peripheral channels, the former 
centripetal and the latter centrifugal, and the channel AM is the 
inter-central channel of association. 


The centre A in which reside the auditive images of words may be again 
subdivided into three, as in the following scheme, viz.: Sound (So), 
syllables (Sy), and words (W) . 

That partial centres for sounds and syllables can really be formed, 
the pathology of language seems to establish, for in some forms of 
centro-sensory dysphasia, the patients can pronounce only sounds, or at 
most sounds and syllables. 

Small children, too, are, at the beginning, particularly sensitive to 
simple sounds of language, with which indeed, and especially with _s_, 
their mothers caress them and attract their attention; while later the 
child is sensitive to syllables, with which also the mother caresses 
him, saying: "_ba, ba, punf, tuf!_" 


Finally it is the simple word, dissyllabic in most cases, which attracts 
the child's attention. 

But for the motor centres also the same thing may be repeated; the child 
utters at the beginning simple or double sounds, as for example _bl_, 
_gl_, _ch_, an expression which the mother greets with joy; then 
distinctly syllabic sounds begin to manifest themselves in the child: 
_ga_, _ba_; and, finally, the dissyllabic word, usually labial: _mama_. 


We say that the spoken language begins with the child when the word 
pronounced by him signifies an _idea_; when for example, seeing his 
mother and recognising her he says "_mamma_;" and seeing a dog says, 
"_tettE_;" and wishing to eat says: "_pappa_." 

Thus we consider _language begun_ when it is established in relation to 
perception; while the language itself is still, in its psycho-motor 
mechanism, perfectly rudimentary. 

That is, when above the diastaltic arc where the mechanical formation of 
the language is still unconscious, the recognition of the word takes 
place, that is, the word is perceived and associated with the object 
which it represents, language is considered to have begun. 

On this level, _later_, language continues the process of perfecting in 
proportion as the hearing perceives better the component sounds of the 
words and the psycho-motor channels become more permeable to 

This is the first stage of spoken language, which has its own beginning 
and its own development, leading, through the perceptions, to the 
_perfecting_ of the primordial mechanism of the language itself; and at 
this stage precisely is established what we call _articulate language_, 
which will later be the means which the adult will have at his disposal 
to express his own thoughts, and which the adult will have great 
difficulty in perfecting or correcting when it has once been 
established: in fact a high stage of culture sometimes accompanies an 
imperfect articulate language which prevents the Esthetic expression of 
one's thought. 

The development of articulate language takes place in the period between 
the age of two and the age of seven: the age of _perceptions_ in which 
the attention of the child is spontaneously turned towards external 
objects, and the memory is particularly tenacious. It is the age also of 
_motility_ in which all the psycho-motor channels are becoming permeable 
and the muscular mechanisms establish themselves. In this period of life 
by the mysterious bond between the auditory channel and the motor 
channel of the spoken language it would seem that the auditory 
perceptions have the direct power of _provoking_ the complicated 
movements of articulate speech which develop instinctively after such 
stimuli as if awaking from the slumber of heredity. It is well known 
that it is only at this age that it is possible to acquire all the 
characteristic modulations of a language which it would be vain to 
attempt to establish later. The mother tongue alone is well pronounced 
because it was established in the period of childhood; and the adult who 
learns to speak a new language must bring to it the imperfections 
characteristic of the foreigner's speech: only children who under the 
age of seven years learn several languages at the same time can receive 
and reproduce all the characteristic mannerisms of accent and 

pronunciation . 

Thus also the _defects_ acquired in childhood such as dialectic defects 
or those established by bad habits, become indelible in the adult. 

What develops later, the _superior_ language, the _dictorium_, no longer 
has its origin in the mechanism of language but in the intellectual 
development which makes use of the mechanical language. As the 
articulate language develops by the exercise of its mechanism and is 
enriched by perception, the _dictorium_ develops with syntax and is 
enriched by _intellectual culture_. Going back to the scheme of language 
we see that above the arc which defines the lower language, is 
established the _dictorium_, _D_, — from which now come the motor 
impulses of speech — which is established as _spoken language_ fit to 
manifest the ideation of the intelligent man; this language will be 
enriched little by little by intellectual culture and perfected by the 
grammatical study of syntax. 


Hitherto, as a result of a preconception, it has been believed that 
written language should enter only into the development of the 
_dictorium_, as the suitable means for the acquisition of culture and of 
permitting grammatical analysis and construction of the language. Since 
"spoken words have wings" it has been admitted that intellectual culture 
could only proceed by the aid of a language which was stable, objective, 
and capable of being analysed, such as the graphic language. 

But why, when we acknowledge the graphic language as a precious, nay 
indispensable, instrument of intellectual education, for the reason that 
it _fixes the ideas_ of men and permits of their analysis and of their 
assimilation in books, where they remain indelibly written as an 
ineffaceable memory of words which are therefore always present and by 
which we can analyse the syntactical structure of the language, why 
shall we not acknowledge that it is _useful_ in the more humble task of 
_fixing_ the _words_ which represent perception and of analysing their 
component sounds? 

Compelled by a pedagogical prejudice we are unable to separate the idea 
of a graphic language from that of a function which heretofore we have 
made it exclusively perform; and it seems to us that by teaching such a 
language to children still in the age of simple perceptions and of 
motility we are committing a serious psychological and pedagogical 

But let us rid ourselves of this prejudice and consider the graphic 
language in itself, reconstructing its psycho-physiological mechanism. 
It is far more simple than the psycho-physiological mechanism of the 
articulate language, and is far more directly accessible to education. 

_Writing_ especially is surprisingly simple. For let us consider 
_dictated_ writing: we have a perfect parallel with spoken language 
since a _motor_ action must correspond with _heard_ speech. Here there 
does not exist, to be sure, the mysterious hereditary relations between 
the heard speech and the articulate speech; but the movements of writing 
are far simpler than those necessary to the spoken word, and are 
performed by large muscles, all external, _upon which we can directly 
act_, rendering the motor channels permeable, and establishing 
psycho-muscular mechanisms. 

This indeed is what is done by my method, which _prepares the movements 
directly_; so that the psycho-motor impulse of the heard speech _finds 
the motor channels already established_, and is manifested in the act of 
writing, like an explosion. 

The real difficulty is in the interpretation of the graphic signs_; but 
we must remember that we are in the _age of perceptions_, where the 
sensations and the memory as well as the primitive associations are 

involved precisely in the characteristic progress of natural 
development. Moreover our children are already prepared by various 
exercises of the senses, and by methodical construction of ideas and 
mental associations to perceive the graphic signs; something like a 
patrimony of perceptive ideas offers material to the language in the 
process of development. The child who recognises a triangle and calls it 
a triangle can recognise a letter _s_ and denominate it by the sound 
_s_. This is obvious. 

Let us not talk of premature teaching; ridding ourselves of prejudices, 
let us appeal to experience which shows that in reality children proceed 
without effort, nay rather with evident manifestations of pleasure to 
the recognition of graphic signs presented as objects. 


And with this premise let us consider the relations between the 
mechanisms of the two languages. 

The child of three or four has already long begun his articulate 
language according to our scheme. But he finds himself in the period in 
which the jnechanism of articulate language is being perfected_; a 
period contemporary with that in which he is acquiring a content of 
language along with the patrimony of perception. 

The child has perhaps not heard perfectly in all their component parts 
the words which he pronounces, and, if he has heard them perfectly, they 
may have been pronounced badly, and consequently have left an erroneous 
auditory perception. It would be well that the child, by exercising the 
motor channels of articulate language should establish exactly the 
movements necessary to a perfect articulation, _before_ the age of easy 
motor adaptations is passed, and, by the fixation of erroneous 
mechanisms, the defects become incorrigible. 

To this end the _analysis of speech_ is necessary. As when we wish to 
perfect the language we first start children at composition and then 
pass to grammatical study; and when we wish to perfect the style we 
first teach to write grammatically and then come to the analysis of 
style — so when we wish to perfect the _speech_ it is first necessary 
that the speech _exist_, and then it is proper to proceed to its 
analysis. When, therefore, the child _speaks_, but before the completion 
of the development of speech which renders it fixed in mechanisms 
already established, the speech should be analysed with a view to 
perfecting it. 

Now, as grammar and rhetoric are not possible with the spoken language 
but demand recourse to the written language which keeps ever before the 
eye the discourse to be analysed, so it is with speech. 

The analysis of the transient is impossible. 

The language must be materialised and made stable. Hence the necessity 
of the written word or the word represented by graphic signs. 

In the third stage of my method for writing, that is, composition of 
speech, is included the _analysis of the word_ not only into signs, but 
into the component sounds; the signs representing its translation. The 
child, that is, _divides_ the heard word which he perceives integrally 
as a _word_, knowing also its meanings, into sounds and syllables. 


Let me call attention to the following diagram which represents the 
interrelation of the two mechanisms for writing and for articulate 
speech . 

[Illustration: The peripheric channels are indicated by heavy lines; the 
central channels of association by dotted lines; and those referring to 

association in relation to the development of the heard speech by light 

_E_ ear; _So_ auditory centre of sounds; _Sy_ auditory centre of 
syllables; _W_ auditory centre of word; _M_ motor centre of the 
articulate speech; _T_ external organs of articulate speech (tongue); 
_H_ external organs of writing (hand); _MC_ motor centre of writing; 
_VC_ visual centre of graphic signs; _V_ organ of vision.] 

Whereas in the development of spoken language the sound composing the 
word might be imperfectly perceived, here in the teaching of the graphic 
sign corresponding to the sound (which teaching consists in presenting 
to the child a sandpaper letter, naming it _distinctly_ and making the 
child _see_ it and _touch_ it), not only is the perception of the heard 
sound _clearly_ fixed — separately and clearly — but this perception is 
associated with two others: the centro-motor perception and the 
centro-visual perception of the written sign. 

The triangle _VC_, _MC_, _So_ represents the association of three 
sensations in relation with the analysis of speech. 

When the letter is presented to the child and he is made to touch and 
see it, while it is being named, the centripetal channels _ESo_; _H_, 
_MC_, _So_; _V_, _VC_, _So_ are acting and when the child is made to 
name the letter, alone or accompanied by a vowel, the external stimulus 
acts in _V_ and passes through the channels _V_, _VC_, _So_, _M_, _T_; 
and _V_, _CV_, _So_, _Sy_, _M_, _T_. 

When these channels of association have been established by presenting 
visual stimuli in the graphic sign, the corresponding movements of 
articulate language can be provoked and studied one by one in their 
defects; while, by maintaining the visual stimulus of the graphic sign 
which provokes articulation and accompanying it by the auditory stimulus 
of the corresponding _sound_ uttered by the teacher, their articulation 
can be perfected; this articulation is by innate conditions connected 

with the heard speech; that is, in the course of the pronunciation 

provoked by the visual stimulus, and during the repetition of the 
relative movements of the organs of language, the auditory stimulus 
which is introduced into the exercise contributes to the perfecting of 
the pronunciation of the isolated or syllabic sounds composing the 
spoken word. 

When later the child writes under dictation, translating into signs the 
sounds of speech, he analyses the heard speech into its sounds, 
translating them into graphic movements through channels already 
rendered permeable by the corresponding muscular sensations. 


Defects and imperfections of language are in part due to organic causes, 
consisting in malformations or in pathological alterations of the 
nervous system; but in part they are connected with functional defects 
acquired in the period of the formation of language and consist in an 
erratic pronunciation of the component sounds of the spoken word. Such 
errors are acquired by the child who hears words imperfectly pronounced, 
or _hears bad speech_, The dialectic accent enters into this category; 
but there also enter vicious habits which make the natural defects of 
the articulate language of childhood persist in the child, or which 
provoke in him by imitation the defects of language peculiar to the 
persons who surrounded him in his childhood. 

The normal defects of child language are due to the fact that the 
complicated muscular agencies of the organs of articulate language do 
not yet function well and are consequently incapable of reproducing the 
_sound_ which was the sensory stimulus of a certain innate movement. The 
association of the movements necessary to the articulation of the spoken 
words is established little by little. The result is a language made of 

words with sounds which are imperfect and often lacking (whence 
incomplete words). Such defects are grouped under the name _blEsitas_ 
and are especially due to the fact that the child is not yet capable of 
directing the movements of his tongue. They comprise chiefly: 
_sigmatism_ or imperfect pronunciation of _s_; _rhotacism_ or imperfect 
pronunciation of _r_; _lambdacism_ or imperfect pronunciation of _l_; 
_gammacism_ or imperfect pronunciation, of _g_; _iotacism_, defective 
pronunciation of the gutturals; _mogilalia_, imperfect pronunciation of 
the labials, and according to some authors, as Preyer, mogilalia is made 
to include also the suppression of the first sound of a word. 

Some defects of pronunciation which concern the utterance of the vowel 
sound as well as that of the consonant are due to the fact that the 
child _reproduces perfectly_ sounds imperfectly heard. 

In the first case, then, it is a matter of functional insufficiencies of 
the peripheral motor organ and hence of the nervous channels, and the 
cause lies in the individual; whereas in the second case the error is 
caused by the auditory stimulus and the cause lies outside. 

These defects often persist, however attenuated, in the boy and the 
adult: and produce finally an erroneous language to which will later be 
added in writing orthographical errors, such for example as dialectic 
orthographical errors. 

If one considers the charm of human speech one is bound to acknowledge 
the inferiority of one who does not possess a correct spoken language; 
and an Esthetic conception in education cannot be imagined unless 
special care be devoted to perfecting articulate language. Although the 
Greeks had transmitted to Rome the art of educating in language, this 
practice was not resumed by Humanism which cared more for the Esthetics 
of the environment and the revival of artistic works than for the 
perfecting of the man. 

To-day we are just beginning to introduce the practice of correcting by 
pedagogical methods the serious defects of language, such as stammering; 
but the idea of _linguistic gymnastics_ tending to its perfection has 
not yet penetrated into our schools as a _universal method_, and as a 
detail of the great work of the Esthetic perfecting of man. 

Some teachers of deaf mutes and intelligent devotees of orthophony are 
trying nowadays with small practical success to introduce into the 
elementary schools the correction of the various forms of _blEsitas_, 
as a result of statistical studies which have demonstrated the wide 
diffusion of such defects among the pupils. The exercises consist 
essentially in _silence_ cures which procure calm and repose for the 
organs of language, and in patient _repetition_ of the _separate_ vowel 
and consonant _sounds_; to these exercises is added also respiratory 
gymnastics. This is not the place to describe in detail the methods of 
these exercises which are long and patient and quite out of harmony with 
the teachings of the school. But in my methods are to be found all 
exercises for the corrections of language: 

(_a_) _Exercises of Silence_, which prepare the nervous channels of 
language to receive new stimuli perfectly; 

(_b_) _Lessons_ which consist first of the distinct pronunciation by the 
teacher of _few words_ (especially of _nouns_ which must be associated 
with a concrete idea); by this means clear and perfect _auditory 
stimuli_ of language are started, stimuli which are _repeated_ by the 
teacher when the child has conceived the idea of the object represented 
by the word (recognition of the object); finally of the provocation of 
articulate language on the part of the child who must repeat _that word 
alone_ aloud, pronouncing its separate sounds; 

(_c_) _Exercises in Graphic Language_, which analyse the sounds of 
speech and cause them to be repeated separately in several ways: that 
is, when the child learns the separate letters of the alphabet and when 

he composes or writes words, repeating their sounds which he translates 
separately into composed or written speech; 

(_d_) _Gymnastic Exercises_, which comprise, as we have seen, both 
_respiratory exercises_ and those of _articulation_. 

I believe that in the schools of the future the conception will 
disappear which is beginning to-day of "_correcting in the elementary 
schools_" the defects of language; and will be replaced by the more 
rational one of _avoiding them by caring for the development of 
language_ in the "Children's Houses"; that is, in the very age in which 
language is being established in the child. 



Children of three years already know how to count as far as two or three 
when they enter our schools. They therefore _very easily_ learn 
numeration, which consists _in counting objects_. A dozen different ways 
may serve toward this end, and daily life presents many opportunities; 
when the mother says, for instance, "There are two buttons missing from 
your apron," or "We need three more plates at table." 

One of the first means used by me, is that of counting with money. I 
obtain _new_ money, and if it were possible I should have good 
reproductions made in cardboard. I have seen such money used in a school 
for deficients in London. 

The jnaking of change_ is a form of numeration so attractive as to hold 
the attention of the child. I present the one, two, and four centime 
pieces and the children, in this way learn to count to _ten_. 

No form of instruction is more _practical_ than that tending to make 
children familiar with the coins in common use, and no exercise is more 
useful than that of making change. It is so closely related to daily 
life that it interests all children intensely. 

Having taught numeration in this empiric mode, I pass to more methodical 
exercises, having as didactic material one of the sets of blocks 
already used in the education of the senses; namely, the series of ten 
rods heretofore used for the teaching of length. The shortest of these 
rods corresponds to a decimetre, the longest to a metre, while the 
intervening rods are divided into sections a decimetre in length. The 
sections are painted alternately red and blue. 


Some day, when a child has arranged the rods, placing them in order of 
length, we have him count the red and blue signs, beginning with the 
smallest piece; that is, _one_; one, two; one, two, three, etc., always 
going back to one in the counting of each rod, and starting from the 
side A. We then have him name the single rods from the shortest to the 
longest, according to the total number of the sections which each 
contains, touching the rods at the sides B, on which side the stair 
ascends. This results in the same numeration as when we counted the 
longest rod — 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Wishing to know the number 
of rods, we count them from the side A and the same numeration results; 
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. This correspondence of the three sides of 
the triangle causes the child to verify his knowledge and as the 
exercise interests him he repeats it many times. 

We now unite to the exercises in _numeration_ the earlier, sensory 
exercises in which the child recognised the long and short rods. Having 

mixed the rods upon a carpet, the directress selects one, and showing it 
to the child, has him count the sections; for example, 5. She then asks 
him to give her the one next in length. He selects it _by his eye_, and 
the directress has him _verify_ his choice by _placing the two pieces 
side by side and by counting their sections_. Such exercises may be 
repeated in great variety and through them the child learns to assign a 
_particular name to each one of the pieces in the long stair_. We may 
now call them piece number one; piece number two, etc., and finally, for 
brevity, may speak of them in the lessons as one, two, three, etc. 


At this point, if the child already knows how to write, we may present 
the figures cut in sandpaper and mounted upon cards. In presenting 
these, the method is the same used in teaching the letters. "This is 
one." "This is two." "Give me one." "Give me two." "What _number_ is 
this?" The child traces the number with his finger as he did the 
letters . 

_Exercises with Numbers. _ Association of the graphic sign with the 

I have designed two trays each divided into five little compartments. At 
the back of each compartment may be placed a card bearing a figure. The 
figures in the first tray should be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, and in the second, 5, 
6, 7, 8, 9. 

The exercise is obvious; it consists in placing within the compartments 
a number of objects corresponding to the figure indicated upon the card 
at the back of the compartment. We give the children various objects in 
order to vary the lesson, but chiefly make use of large wooden pegs so 
shaped that they will not roll off the desk. We place a number of these 
before the child whose part is to arrange them in their places, one peg 
corresponding to the card marked one, etc. When he has finished he takes 
his tray to the directress that she may verify his work. 

_The Lesson on Zero._ We wait until the child, pointing to the 
compartment containing the card marked zero, asks, "And what must I put 
in here?" We then reply, "Nothing; zero is nothing." But often this is 
not enough. It is necessary to make the child _feel_ what we mean by 
_nothing_. To this end we make use of little games which vastly 
entertain the children. I stand among them, and turning to one of them 
who has already used this material, I say, "Come, dear, come to me 
_zero_ times." The child almost always comes to me, and then runs back 
to his place. "But, my boy, you came _one_ time, and I told you to come 
_zero_ times." Then he begins to wonder. "But what must I do, then?" 
"Nothing; zero is nothing." "But how shall I do nothing?" "Don't do 
anything. You must sit still. You must not come at all, not any times. 
Zero times. No times at all." I repeat these exercises until the 
children understand, and they are then, immensely amused at remaining 
quiet when I call to them to come to me zero times, or to throw me zero 
kisses. They themselves often cry out, "Zero is nothing! Zero is 
nothing ! " 


When the children recognise the written figure, and when this figure 
signifies to them the numerical value, I give them the following 

I cut the figures from old calendars and mount them upon slips of paper 
which are then folded and dropped into a box. The children draw out the 
slips, carry them still folded, to their seats, where they look at them 
and refold them, _conserving the secret_. Then, one by one, or in 
groups, these children (who are naturally the oldest ones in the class) 
go to the large table of the directress where groups of various small 

objects have been placed. Each one selects _the quantity_ of objects 
corresponding to the number he has drawn. The number, meanwhile, has 
been left _at the child's place_, a slip of paper mysteriously folded. 
The child, therefore, must _remember_ his number not only during the 
movements which he makes in coming and going, but while he collects his 
pieces, counting them one by one. The directress may here make 
interesting individual observations upon the number memory. 

When the child has gathered up his objects he arranges them upon his own 
table, in columns of two, and if the number is uneven, he places the odd 
piece at the bottom and between the last two objects. The arrangement of 
the pieces is therefore as follows: — 


The crosses represent the objects, while the circle stands for the 
folded slip containing the figure. Having arranged his objects, the 
child awaits the verification. The directress comes, opens the slip, 
reads the number, and counts the pieces. 

When we first played this game it often happened that the children took 
_more objects_ than were called for upon the card, and this was not 
always because they did not remember the number, but arose from a mania 
for the having the greatest number of objects. A little of that 
instinctive greediness, which is common to primitive and uncultured man. 
The directress seeks to explain to the children that it is useless to 
have all those things upon the desk, and that the point of the game lies 
in taking the exact number of objects called for. 

Little by little they enter into this idea, but not so easily as one 
might suppose. It is a real effort of self-denial which holds the child 
within the set limit, and makes him take, for example, only two of the 
objects placed at his disposal, while he sees others taking more. I 
therefore consider this game more an exercise of will power than of 
numeration. The child who has the _zero_, should not move from his place 
when he sees all his companions rising and taking freely of the objects 
which are inaccessible to him. Many times zero falls to the lot of a 
child who knows how to count perfectly, and who would experience great 
pleasure in accumulating and arranging a fine group of objects in the 
proper order upon his table, and in awaiting with security the teacher's 

It is most interesting to study the expressions upon the faces of those 
who possess zero. The individual differences which result are almost a 
revelation of the "character" of each one. Some remain impassive, 
assuming a bold front in order to hide the pain of the disappointment; 
others show this disappointment by involuntary gestures. Still others 
cannot hide the smile which is called forth by the singular situation in 
which they find themselves, and which will make their friends curious. 
There are little ones who follow every movement of their companions with 
a look of desire, almost of envy, while others show instant acceptance 
of the situation. No less interesting are the expressions with which 
they confess to the holding of the zero, when asked during the 
verification, "and you, you haven't taken anything?" "I have zero." "It 
is zero." These are the usual words, but the expressive face, the tone 
of the voice, show widely varying sentiments. Rare, indeed, are those 
who seem to give with pleasure the explanation of an extraordinary fact. 
The greater number either look unhappy or merely resigned. 

We therefore give lessons upon the meaning of the game, saying, "It is 
hard to keep the zero secret. Fold the paper tightly and don't let it 
slip away. It is the most difficult of all." Indeed, after awhile, the 
very difficulty of remaining quiet appeals to the children, and when 

they open the slip marked zero it can be seen that they are content to 
keep the secret. 


The didactic material which we use for the teaching of the first 
arithmetical operations is the same already used for numeration; that 
is, the rods graduated as to length which, arranged on the scale of the 
metre, contain the first idea of the decimal system. 

The rods, as I have said, have come to be called by the numbers which 
they represent; one, two, three, etc. They are arranged in order of 
length, which is also in order of numeration. 

The first exercise consists in trying to put the shorter pieces together 
in such a way as to form tens. The most simple way of doing this is to 
take successively the shortest rods, from one up, and place them at the 
end of the corresponding long rods from nine down. This may be 
accompanied by the commands, "Take one and add it to nine; take two and 
add it to eight; take three and add it to seven; take four and add it to 
six." In this way we make four rods equal to ten. There remains the 
five, but, turning this upon its head (in the long sense), it passes 
from one end of the ten to the other, and thus makes clear the fact that 
two times five makes ten. 

These exercises are repeated and little by little the child is taught 
the more technical language; nine plus one equals ten, eight plus two 
equals ten, seven plus three equals ten, six plus four equals ten, and 
for the five, which remains, two times five equals ten. At last, if he 
can write, we teach the signs _plus_ and _equals_ and _times_. Then this 
is what we see in the neat note-books of our little ones: 

9 + 1 = 10 

8 + 2 = 10 5^2 = 10 

7 + 3 = 10 
6 + 4 = 10 

When all this is well learned and has been put upon the paper with great 
pleasure by the children, we call their attention to the work which is 
done when the pieces grouped together to form tens are taken apart, and 
put back in their original positions. From the ten last formed we take 
away four and six remains; from the next we take away three and seven 
remains; from the next, two and eight remains; from the last, we take 
away one and nine remains. Speaking of this properly we say, ten less 
four equals six; ten less three equals seven; ten less two equals eight; 
ten less one equals nine. 

In regard to the remaining five, it is the half of ten, and by cutting 
the long rod in two, that is dividing ten by two, we would have five; 
ten divided by two equals five. The written record of all this reads: 

10 - 4 = 6 

10 -3=7 10 "2=5 
10 - 2 = 8 
10 - 1 = 9 

Once the children have mastered this exercise they multiply it 
spontaneously. Can we make three in two ways? We place the one after 
the two and then write, in order that we may remember what we have done, 
2+1=3. Can we make two rods equal to number four? 3+1=4, and 
4-3=1; 4-1=3. Rod number two in its relation to rod number 
four is treated as was five in relation to ten; that is, we turn it 
over and show that it is contained in four exactly two times: 4 " 2 = 2; 
2 () 2 = 4. Another problem: let us see with how many rods we can play 
this same game. We can do it with three and six; and with four and 
eight; that is, 

2 2 = 4 3 2 = 6 4 2 = 8 5 Q 2 = 10 
10 "2=5 8~2=4 6"2=3 4 ~ 2 = 2 

At this point we find that the cubes with which we played the number 
memory games are of help: 

2 4 6 8 10 



I i X X|X XX X|X XX X|X 

I i j X X|X XX xjx 

I I I I X X|X 

From this arrangement, one sees at once which are the numbers which can 
be divided by two — all those which have not an odd cube at the bottom. 
These are the even numbers, because they can be arranged in pairs, two 
by two; and the division by two is easy, all that is necessary being to 
separate the two lines of twos that stand one under the other. Counting 
the cubes of each file we have the quotient. To recompose the primitive 
number we need only reassemble the two files thus 2 3=6. All this is 
not difficult for children of five years. 

The repetition soon becomes monotonous, but the exercises may be most 
easily changed, taking again the set of long rods, and instead of 
placing rod number one after nine, place it after ten. In the same way, 
place two after nine, and three after eight. In this way we make rods of 
a greater length than ten; lengths which we must learn to name eleven, 
twelve, thirteen, etc., as far as twenty. The little cubes, too, may be 
used to fix these higher numbers. 

Having learned the operations through ten, we proceed with no difficulty 
to twenty. The one difficulty lies in the _decimal numbers_ which 
require certain lessons. 


The necessary didactic material consists of a number of square cards 
upon which the figure ten is printed in large type, and of other 
rectangular cards, half the size of the square, and containing the 
single numbers from one to nine. We place the numbers in a line; 1, 2, 
3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Then, having no more numbers, we must begin 
over again and take the 1 again. This 1 is like that section in the set 
of rods which, in rod number 10, extends beyond nine. Counting along 
_the stair_ as far as nine, there remains this one section which, as 
there are no more numbers, we again designate as 1; but this is a higher 
1 than the first, and to distinguish it from the first we put near it a 
zero, a sign which means nothing. Here then is 10. Covering the zero 
with the separate rectangular number cards in the order of their 
succession we see formed: 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. These 
numbers are composed by adding to rod number 10, first rod number 1, 
then 2, then 3, etc., until we finally add rod number 9 to rod number 
10, thus obtaining a very long rod, which, when its alternating red and 
blue sections are counted, gives us nineteen. 

The directress may then show to the child the cards, giving the number 
16, and he may place rod 6 after rod 10. She then takes away the card 
bearing 6, and places over the zero the card bearing the figure 8, 
whereupon the child takes away rod 6 and replaces it with rod 8, thus 
making 18. Each of these acts may be recorded thus: 10 + 6 = 16; 10+8 
= 18, etc. We proceed in the same way to subtraction. 

When the number itself begins to have a clear meaning to the child, the 
combinations are made upon one long card, arranging the rectangular 
cards bearing the nine figures upon the two columns of numbers shown in 
the figures A and B. 

A B 

1 10 1 

1 10 1 

1 10 1 

1 20 | 

1 10 1 

1 30 | 

1 10 1 

1 40 | 

1 10 1 

1 50 | 

1 10 1 

1 60 | 

1 10 1 

1 70 | 

1 10 1 

1 80 1 

1 10 1 

1 90 1 

+ + +■ 

Upon the card A we superimpose upon the zero of the second 10, the 
rectangular card bearing the 1: and under this the one bearing two, etc. 
Thus while the one of the ten remains the same the numbers to the right 
proceed from zero to nine, thus: 

In card B the applications are more complex. The cards are superimposed 
in numerical progression by tens. 

+ + 

I 10 I 

I 11 I 

I 12 I 

I 13 I 

I 14 I 

I 15 I 

I 16 I 

I 17 I 

I 18 I 

I 19 I 

I 20 | 
+ + 

Almost all our children count to 100, a number which was given to them 
in response to the curiosity they showed in regard to learning it. 

I do not believe that this phase of the teaching needs further 
illustrations. Each teacher may multiply the practical exercises in the 
arithmetical operations, using simple objects which the children can 
readily handle and divide. 



In the practical application of the method it is helpful to know the 
sequence, or the various series, of exercises which must be presented to 
the child successively. 

In the first edition of my book there was clearly indicated a 
progression for each exercise; but in the "Children's Houses" we began 
contemporaneously with the most varied exercises; and it develops that 
there exist _grades_ in the presentation of the material in its 
entirety. These grades have, since the first publication of the book, 
become clearly defined through experience in the "Children's Houses." 


_First Grade_ 

As soon as the child comes to the school he may be given the following 

exercises : 

Moving the seats, in silence (practical life). 
Lacing, buttoning, hooking, etc. 
The cylinders (sense exercises). 

Among these the most useful exercise is that of the cylinders (solid 
insets). The child here begins to _fix his attention_. He makes his 
first comparison, his first selection, in which he exercises judgment. 
Therefore he exercises his intelligence. 

Among these exercises with the solid insets, there exists the following 
progression from easy to difficult: 

(a) The cylinders in which the pieces are of the same height and of 
decreasing diameter. 

(b) The cylinders decreasing in all dimensions. 

(c) Those decreasing only in height. 

_Second Grade_ 

_Exercises of Practical Life._ To rise and be seated in silence. To walk 
on the line. 

_Sense Exercises. _ Material dealing with dimensions. The Long Stair. The 
prisms, or Big Stair. The cubes. Here the child makes exercises in the 
recognition of dimensions as he did in the cylinders but under a very 
different aspect. The objects are much larger. The differences much more 
evident than they were in the preceding exercises, but here, _only the 
eye of the child_ recognises the differences and controls the errors. In 
the preceding exercises, the errors were mechanically revealed to the 
child by the didactic material itself. The impossibility of placing the 
objects in order in the block in any other than their respective spaces 
gives this control. Finally, while in the preceding exercises the child 
makes much more simple movements (being seated he places little objects 
in order with his hands), in these new exercises he accomplishes 
movements which are decidedly more complex and difficult and makes small 
muscular efforts. He does this by moving from the table to the carpet, 
rises, kneels, carries heavy objects. 

We notice that the child continues to be confused between the two last 
pieces in the growing scale, being for a long time unconscious of such 
an error after he has learned to put the other pieces in correct order. 
Indeed the difference between these pieces being throughout the varying 
dimensions the same for all, the relative difference diminishes with the 
increasing size of the pieces themselves. For example, the little cube 
which has a base of 2 centimetres is double the size, as to base, of the 
smallest cube which has a base of 1 centimetre, while the largest cube 
having a base of 10 centimetres, differs by barely 1/10 from the base of 
the cube next it in the series (the one of 9 centimetres base). 

Thus it would seem that, theoretically, in such exercises we should 
begin with the smallest piece. We can, indeed, do this with the material 
through which size and length are taught. But we cannot do so with the 
cubes, which must be arranged as a little "tower." This column of blocks 
must always have as its base the largest cube. 

The children, attracted above all by the tower, begin very early to play 
with it. Thus we often see very little children playing with the tower, 
happy in believing that they have constructed it, when they have 
inadvertently used the next to the largest cube as the base. But when 
the child, repeating the exercise, _corrects himself of his own accord_, 
in a permanent fashion, we may be certain that _his eye_ has become 

trained to perceive even the slightest differences between the pieces. 

In the three systems of blocks through which dimensions are taught that 
of length has pieces differing from each other by 10 centimetres, 
while in the other two sets, the pieces differ only 1 centimetre. 
Theoretically it would seem that the long rods _should be the first to 
attract the attention_ and to exclude errors. This, however, is not the 
case. The children are attracted by this set of blocks, but they commit 
the greatest number of errors in using it, and only after they have for 
a long time eliminated every error in constructing the other two sets, 
do they succeed in arranging the Long Stair perfectly. This may then be 
considered as the most difficult among the series through which 
dimensions are taught. 

Arrived at this point in his education, the child is capable of fixing 
his attention, with interest, upon the thermic and tactile stimuli. 

The progression in the sense development is not, therefore, in actual 
practice identical with the theoretical progression which psychometry 
indicates in the study of its subjects. Nor does it follow the 
progression which physiology and anatomy indicate in the description of 
the relations of the sense organs. 

In fact, the tactile sense is the _primitive_ sense; the organ of touch 
is the most _simple_ and the most widely diffused. But it is easy to 
explain how the most simple sensations, the least complex organs, are 
not the first through which to attract the _attention_ in a didactic 
presentation of sense stimuli. 

Therefore, when the _education of the attention has been begun_, we may 
present to the child the rough and smooth surfaces (following certain 
thermic exercises described elsewhere in the book). 

These exercises, if presented at the proper time, _interest_ the 
children _immensely_. It is to be remembered that these games are of the 
_greatest importance_ in the method, because upon them, in union with 
the exercises for the movement of the hand, which we introduce later, we 
base the acquisition of writing. 

Together with the two series of sense exercises described above, we may 
begin what we call the "pairing of the colours," that is, the 
recognition of the identity of two colours. This is the first exercise 
of the chromatic sense. 

Here, also, it is only the _eye_ of the child that intervenes in the 
judgment, as it was with the exercises in dimension. This first colour 
exercise is easy, but the child must already have acquired a certain 
grade of education of the attention through preceding exercises, if he 
is to repeat this one with interest. 

Meanwhile, the child has heard music; has walked on the line, while the 
directress played a rhythmic march. Little by little he has learned to 
accompany the music spontaneously with certain movements. This of course 
necessitates the repetition of the same music. (To acquire the sense of 
rhythm _the repetition of the same exercise is necessary_, as in all 
forms of education dealing with spontaneous activity.) 

The exercises in silence are also repeated. 

_Third Grade_ 

_Exercises of Practical Life._ The children wash themselves, dress and 
undress themselves, dust the tables, learn to handle various objects, 

_Sense Exercises. _ We now introduce the child to the recognition of 
gradations of stimuli (tactile gradations, chromatic, etc.), allowing 

him to exercise himself freely. 

We begin to present the stimuli for the sense of hearing (sounds, 
noises), and also the baric stimuli (the little tablets differing in 
weight) . 

Contemporaneously with the gradations we may present the _plane 
geometric insets_. Here begins the education of the movement of the hand 
in following the contours of the insets, an exercise which, together 
with the other and contemporaneous one of the recognition of tactile 
stimuli in gradation, _prepares for writing_. 

The series of cards bearing the geometric forms, we give after the child 
recognises perfectly the same forms in the wooden insets. These cards 
serve to prepare for the _abstract signs_ of which writing consists. The 
child learns to recognise a delineated form, and after all the preceding 
exercises have formed within him an ordered and intelligent personality, 
they may be considered the bridge by which he passes from the sense 
exercises to writing, from the _preparation_, to the actual _entrance 
into inst ruction_. 

_Fourth Grade_ 

_Exercises of Practical Life._ The children set and clear the table for 
luncheon. They learn to put a room in order. They are now taught the 
most minute care of their persons in the making of the toilet. (How to 
brush their teeth, to clean their nails, etc.) 

They have learned, through the rhythmic exercises on the line, to walk 
with perfect freedom and balance. 

They know how to control and direct their own movements (how to make the 
silence, — how to move various objects without dropping or breaking them 
and without making a noise). 

_Sense Exercises. _ In this stage we repeat all the sense exercises. In 
addition we introduce the recognition of musical notes by the help of 
the series of duplicate bells. 

_Exercises Related to Writing_ / _Design_ / The child passes to the 
_plane geometric insets in metal_. He has already co-ordinated the 
movements necessary to follow the contours. Here he no longer _follows 
them with his finger_, but with a pencil, leaving the double sign upon a 
sheet of paper. Then he fills in the figures with coloured pencils, 
holding the pencil as he will later hold the pen in writing. 

Contemporaneously the child is taught to _recognise_ and _touch_ some of 
the letters of the alphabet made in sandpaper. 

_Exercises in Arithmetic. _ At this point, repeating the sense exercises, 
we present the Long Stair with a different aim from that with which it 
has been used up to the present time. We have the child _count_ the 
different pieces, according to the blue and red sections, beginning with 
the rod consisting of one section and continuing through that composed 
of ten sections. We continue such exercises and give other more 
complicated ones. 

In Design we pass from the outlines of the geometric insets to such 
outlined figures as the practice of four years has established and which 
will be published as models in design. 

These have an educational importance, and represent in their content and 
in their gradations one of the most carefully studied details of the 
method . 

They serve as a means for the continuation of the sense education and 
help the child to observe his surroundings. They thus add to his 

intellectual refinement, and, as regards writing, they prepare for the 
high and low strokes. After such practice it will be _easy for the child 
to make high or low letters_, and this will do away with the _ruled 
note-books_ such as are used in Italy in the various elementary classes. 

In the _acquiring_ of the use of _written language_ we go as far as the 
knowledge of the letters of the alphabet, and of composition with the 
movable alphabet. 

In Arithmetic, as far as a knowledge of the figures. The child places 
the corresponding figures beside the number of blue and red sections on 
each rod of the Long Stair. 

The children now take the exercise with the wooden pegs. 

Also the games which consist in placing under the figures, on the table, 
a corresponding number of coloured counters. These are arranged in 
columns of twos, thus making the question of odd and even numbers clear. 
(This arrangement is taken from SEguin.) 

_Fifth Grade_ 

We continue the preceding exercises. We begin more complicated rhythmic 
exercises . 

In design we begin: 

(_a_) The use of water colours. 

(_b_) Free drawing from nature (flowers, etc.). 
Composition of words and phrases with the movable alphabet. 

(_a_) Spontaneous writing of words and phrases. 

(_b_) Reading from slips prepared by the directress. 

We continue the arithmetical operations which we began with the Long 

The children at this stage present most interesting differences of 
development. They fairly _run_ toward instruction, and order their 
_intellectual growth_ in a way that is remarkable. 

This joyous growth is what we so rejoice in, as we watch in these 
children, humanity, growing in the spirit according to its own deep 
laws. And only he who experiments can say how great may be the harvest 
from the sowing of such seed. 



The accumulated experience we have had since the publication of the 
Italian version has repeatedly proved to us that in our classes of 
little children, numbering forty and even fifty, the discipline is much 
better than in ordinary schools. For this reason I have thought that an 
analysis of the discipline obtained by our method — which is based upon 
liberty, — would interest my American readers. 

Whoever visits a well kept school (such as, for instance, the one in 
Rome directed by my pupil Anna Maccheroni) is struck by the discipline 
of the children. There are forty little beings — from three to seven 

years old, each one intent on his own work; one is going through one of 
the exercises for the senses, one is doing an arithmetical exercise; one 
is handling the letters, one is drawing, one is fastening and 
unfastening the pieces of cloth on one of our little wooden frames, 
still another is dusting. Some are seated at the tables, some on rugs on 
the floor. There are muffled sounds of objects lightly moved about, of 
children tiptoeing. Once in a while comes a cry of joy only partly 
repressed, "Teacher! Teacher!" an eager call, "Look! see what I've 
done." But as a rule, there is entire absorption in the work in hand. 

The teacher moves quietly about, goes to any child who calls her, 
supervising operations in such a way that anyone who needs her finds 
her at his elbow, and whoever does not need her is not reminded of her 
existence. Sometimes, hours go by without a word. They seem "little 
men," as they were called by some visitors to the "Children's House"; 
or, as another suggested, "judges in deliberation." 

In the midst of such intense interest in work it never happens that 
quarrels arise over the possession of an object. If one accomplishes 
something especially fine, his achievement is a source of admiration and 
joy to others: no heart suffers from another's wealth, but the triumph 
of one is a delight to all. Very often he finds ready imitators. They 
all seem happy and satisfied to do what they can, without feeling 
jealous of the deeds of others. The little fellow of three works 
peaceably beside the boy of seven, just as he is satisfied with his own 
height and does not envy the older boy's stature. Everything is growing 
in the most profound peace. 

If the teacher wishes the whole assembly to do something, for instance, 
leave the work which interests them so much, all she needs to do is to 
speak a word in a low tone, or make a gesture, and they are all 
attention, they look toward her with eagerness, anxious to know how to 
obey. Many visitors have seen the teacher write orders on the 
blackboard, which were obeyed joyously by the children. Not only the 
teachers, but anyone who asks the pupils to do something is astonished 
to see them obey in the minutest detail and with obliging cheerfulness. 
Often a visitor wishes to hear how a child, now painting, can sing. The 
child leaves his painting to be obliging, but the instant his courteous 
action is completed, he returns to his interrupted work. Sometimes the 
smaller children finish their work before they obey. 

A very surprising result of this discipline came to our notice during 
the examinations of the teachers who had followed my course of lectures. 
These examinations were practical, and, accordingly, groups of children 
were put at the disposition of the teachers being examined, who, 
according to the subject drawn by lot, took the children through a given 
exercise. While the children were waiting their turn, they were allowed 
to do just as they pleased. _They worked incessantly_, and returned to 
their undertakings as soon as the interruption caused by the examination 
was over. Every once in a while, one of them came to show us a drawing 
made during the interval. Miss George of Chicago was present many times 
when this happened, and Madame Pujols, who founded the first "Children's 
House" in Paris, was astonished at the patience, the perseverance, and 
the inexhaustible amiability of the children. 

One might think that such children had been severely repressed were it 
not for their lack of timidity, for their bright eyes, for their happy, 
free aspect, for the cordiality of their invitations to look at their 
work, for the way in which they take visitors about and explain matters 
to them. These things make us feel that we are in the presence of the 
masters of the house; and the fervour with which they throw their arms 
around the teacher's knees, with which they pull her down to kiss her 
face, shows that their little hearts are free to expand as they will. 

Anyone who has watched them setting the table must have passed from one 
surprise to another. Little four-year-old waiters take the knives and 
forks and spoons and distribute them to the different places; they carry 
trays holding as many as five water-glasses, and finally they go from 

table to table, carrying big tureens full of hot soup. Not a mistake is 
made, not a glass is broken, not a drop of soup is spilled. All during 
the meal unobtrusive little waiters watch the table assiduously; not a 
child empties his soup-plate without being offered more; if he is ready 
for the next course a waiter briskly carries off his soup-plate. Not a 
child is forced to ask for more soup, or to announce that he has 
finished . 


The tables are set in the grounds of the school of the Franciscan Nuns, 
in Rome.] 

[Illustration: SCHOOL AT TARRYTOWN, N. Y. 

The two girls at the left are constructing the big stair and the tower. 
The boy in the center has constructed the long stair, and is placing the 
figures beside the corresponding rods. The child to the right is tracing 
sandpaper letters.] 

Remembering the usual condition of four-year-old children, who cry, who 
break whatever they touch, who need to be waited on, everyone is deeply 
moved by the sight I have just described, which evidently results from 
the development of energies latent in the depths of the human soul. I 
have often seen the spectators at this banquet of little ones, moved to 

But such discipline could never be obtained by commands, by 
sermonizings, in short, through any of the disciplinary devices 
universally known. Not only were the actions of those children set in an 
orderly condition, but their very lives were deepened and enlarged. In 
fact, such discipline is on the same plane with school-exercises 
extraordinary for the age of the children; and it certainly does not 
depend upon the teacher but upon a sort of miracle, occurring in the 
inner life of each child. 

If we try to think of parallels in the life of adults, we are reminded 
of the phenomenon of conversion, of the superhuman heightening of the 
strength of martyrs and apostles, of the constancy of missionaries, of 
the obedience of monks. Nothing else in the world, except such things, 
is on a spiritual height equal to the discipline of the "Children's 

To obtain such discipline it is quite useless to count on reprimands or 
spoken exhortations. Such means might perhaps at the beginning have an 
appearance of efficacy: but very soon, the instant that real discipline 
appears, all of this falls miserably to the earth, an illusion 
confronted with reality — "night gives way to day." 

The first dawning of real discipline comes through work. At a given 
moment it happens that a child becomes keenly interested in a piece of 
work, showing it by the expression of his face, by his intense 
attention, by his perseverance in the same exercise. That child has set 
foot upon the road leading to discipline. Whatever be his 
undertaking — an exercise for the senses, an exercise in buttoning up or 
lacing together, or washing dishes — it is all one and the same. 

On our side, we can have some influence upon the permanence of this 
phenomenon, by means of repeated "Lessons of Silence." The perfect 
immobility, the attention alert to catch the sound of the names 
whispered from a distance, then the carefully co-ordinated movements 
executed so as not to strike against chair or table, so as barely to 
touch the floor with the feet — all this is a most efficacious 
preparation for the task of setting in order the whole personality, the 
motor forces and the psychical. 

Once the habit of work is formed, we must supervise it with scrupulous 
accuracy, graduating the exercises as experience has taught us. In our 

effort to establish discipline, we must rigorously apply the principles 
of the method. It is not to be obtained by words; no man learns 
self-discipline "through hearing another man speak." The phenomenon of 
discipline needs as preparation a series of complete actions, such as 
are presupposed in the genuine application of a really educative method. 
Discipline is reached always by indirect means. The end is obtained, not 
by attacking the mistake and fighting it, but by developing activity in 
spontaneous work. 

This work cannot be arbitrarily offered, and it is precisely here that 
our method enters; it must be work which the human being instinctively 
desires to do, work towards which the latent tendencies of life 
naturally turn, or towards which the individual step by step ascends. 

Such is the work which sets the personality in order and opens wide 
before it infinite possibilities of growth. Take, for instance, the lack 
of control shown by a baby; it is fundamentally a lack of muscular 
discipline. The child is in a constant state of disorderly movement: he 
throws himself down, he makes queer gestures, he cries. What underlies 
all this is a latent tendency to seek that co-ordination of movement 
which will be established later. The baby is a man not yet sure of the 
movements of the various muscles of the body; not yet master of the 
organs of speech. He will eventually establish these various movements, 
but for the present he is abandoned to a period of experimentation full 
of mistakes, and of fatiguing efforts towards a desirable end latent in 
his instinct, but not clear in his consciousness. To say to the baby, 
"Stand still as I do," brings no light into his darkness; commands 
cannot aid in the process of bringing order into the complex 
psycho-muscular system of an individual in process of evolution. We are 
confused at this point by the example of the adult who through a wicked 
impulse _prefers_ disorder, and who may (granted that he can) obey a 
sharp admonishment which turns his will in another direction, towards 
that order which he recognises and which it is within his capacity to 
achieve. In the case of the little child it is a question of aiding the 
natural evolution of voluntary action. Hence it is necessary to teach 
all the co-ordinated movements, analysing them as much as possible and 
developing them bit by bit. 

Thus, for instance, it is necessary to teach the child the various 
degrees of immobility leading to silence; the movements connected with 
rising from a chair and sitting down, with walking, with tiptoeing, with 
following a line drawn on the floor keeping an upright equilibrium. The 
child is taught to move objects about, to set them down more or less 
carefully, and finally the complex movements connected with dressing and 
undressing himself (analysed on the lacing and buttoning frames at 
school), and for even each of these exercises, the different parts of 
the movement must be analysed. Perfect immobility and the successive 
perf ectioning of action, is what takes the place of the customary 
command, "Be quiet! Be still!" It is not astonishing but very natural 
that the child by means of such exercises should acquire 
self-discipline, so far as regards the lack of muscular discipline 
natural to his age. In short, he responds to nature because he is in 
action; but these actions being directed towards an end, have no longer 
the appearance of disorder but of work. This is discipline which 
represents an end to be attained by means of a number of conquests. The 
child disciplined in this way, is no longer the child he was at first, 
who knows how to _be_ good passively; but he is an individual who has 
made himself better, who has overcome the usual limits of his age, who 
has made a great step forward, who has conquered his future in his 

He has therefore enlarged his dominion. He will not need to have someone 
always at hand, to tell him vainly (confusing two opposing conceptions), 
"Be quiet! Be good!" The goodness he has conquered cannot be summed up 
by inertia: his goodness is now all made up of action. As a matter of 
fact, good people are those who advance towards the good — that good 
which is made up of their own self-development and of external acts of 
order and usefulness. 

In our efforts with the child, external acts are the means which 
stimulate internal development, and they again appear as its 
manifestation, the two elements being inextricably intertwined. Work 
develops the child spiritually; but the child with a fuller spiritual 
development works better, and his improved work delights him, — hence he 
continues to develop spiritually. Discipline is, therefore, not a fact 
but a path, a path in following which the child grasps the abstract 
conception of goodness with an exactitude which is fairly scientific. 

But beyond everything else he savours the supreme delights of that 
spiritual _order_ which is attained indirectly through conquests 
directed towards determinate ends. In that long preparation, the child 
experiences joys, spiritual awakenings and pleasures which form his 
inner treasure-house — the treasure-house in which he is steadily storing 
up the sweetness and strength which will be the sources of 

In short, the child has not only learned to move about and to perform 
useful acts; he has acquired a special grace of action which makes his 
gestures more correct and attractive, and which beautifies his hands and 
indeed his entire body now so balanced and so sure of itself; a grace 
which refines the expression of his face and of his serenely brilliant 
eyes, and which shows us that the flame of spiritual life has been 
lighted in another human being. 

It is obviously true that co-ordinated actions, developed spontaneously 
little by little (that is, chosen and carried out in the exercises by 
the child himself), must call for less effort than the disorderly 
actions performed by the child who is left to his own devices. True 
rest for muscles, intended by nature for action, is in orderly action; 
just as true rest for the lungs is the normal rhythm of respiration 
taken in pure air. To take action away from the muscles is to force them 
away from their natural motor impulse, and hence, besides tiring them, 
means forcing them into a state of degeneration; just as the lungs 
forced into immobility, would die instantly and the whole organism with 

It is therefore necessary to keep clearly in mind the fact that rest for 
whatever naturally acts, lies in some specified form of action, 
corresponding to its nature. 

To act in obedience to the hidden precepts of nature — that is rest; and 
in this special case, since man is meant to be an intelligent creature, 
the more intelligent his acts are the more he finds repose in them. When 
a child acts only in a disorderly, disconnected manner, his nervous 
force is under a great strain; while on the other hand his nervous 
energy is positively increased and multiplied by intelligent actions 
which give him real satisfaction, and a feeling of pride that he has 
overcome himself, that he finds himself in a world beyond the frontiers 
formerly set up as insurmountable, surrounded by the silent respect of 
the one who has guided him without making his presence felt. 

This "multiplication of nervous energy" represents a process which can 
be physiologically analysed, and which comes from the development of the 
organs by rational exercise, from better circulation of the blood, from 
the quickened activity of all the tissues — all factors favourable to the 
development of the body and guaranteeing physical health. The spirit 
aids the body in its growth; the heart, the nerves and the muscles are 
helpful in their evolution by the activity of the spirit, since the 
upward path for soul and body is one and the same. 

By analogy, it can be said of the intellectual development of the child, 
that the mind of infancy, although characteristically disorderly, is 
also "a means searching for its end," which goes through exhausting 
experiments, left, as it frequently is, to its own resources, and too 
often really persecuted. Once in our public park in Rome, the Pincian 

Gardens, I saw a baby of about a year and a half, a beautiful smiling 
child, who was working away trying to fill a little pail by shoveling 
gravel into it. Beside him was a smartly dressed nurse evidently very 
fond of him, the sort of nurse who would consider that she gave the 
child the most affectionate and intelligent care. It was time to go home 
and the nurse was patiently exhorting the baby to leave his work and let 
her put him into the baby-carriage. Seeing that her exhortations made no 
impression on the little fellow's firmness, she herself filled the pail 
with gravel and set pail and baby into the carriage with the fixed 
conviction that she had given him what he wanted. 

I was struck by the loud cries of the child and by the expression of 
protest against violence and injustice which wrote itself on his little 
face. What an accumulation of wrongs weighed down that nascent 
intelligence! The little boy did not wish to have the pail full of 
gravel; he wished to go through the motions necessary to fill it, thus 
satisfying a need of his vigorous organism. The child's unconscious aim 
was his own self-development; not the external fact of a pail full of 
little stones. The vivid attractions of the external world were only 
empty apparitions; the need of his life was a reality. As a matter of 
fact, if he had filled his pail he would probably have emptied it out 
again in order to keep on filling it up until his inner self was 
satisfied. It was the feeling of working towards this satisfaction 
which, a few moments before, had made his face so rosy and smiling; 
spiritual joy, exercise, and sunshine, were the three rays of light 
ministering to his splendid life. 

This commonplace episode in the life of that child, is a detail of what 
happens to all children, even the best and most cherished. They are not 
understood, because the adult judges them by his own measure: he thinks 
that the child's wish is to obtain some tangible object, and lovingly 
helps him to do this: whereas the child as a rule has for his 
unconscious desire, his own self-development. Hence he despises 
everything already attained, and yearns for that which is still to be 
sought for. For instance, he prefers the action of dressing himself to 
the state of being dressed, even finely dressed. He prefers the act of 
washing himself to the satisfaction of being clean: he prefers to make a 
little house for himself, rather than merely to own it. His own 
self-development is his true and almost his only pleasure. The 
self-development of the little baby up to the end of his first year 
consists to a large degree in taking in nutrition; but afterwards it 
consists in aiding the orderly establishment of the psycho-physiological 
functions of his organism. 

That beautiful baby in the Pincian Gardens is the symbol of this: he 
wished to co-ordinate his voluntary actions; to exercise his muscles by 
lifting; to train his eye to estimate distances; to exercise his 
intelligence in the reasoning connected with his undertaking; to 
stimulate his will-power by deciding his own actions; whilst she who 
loved him, believing that his aim was to possess some pebbles, made him 
wretched . 

A similar error is that which we repeat so frequently when we fancy that 
the desire of the student is to possess a piece of information. We aid 
him to grasp intellectually this detached piece of knowledge, and, 
preventing by this means his self-development, we make him wretched. It 
is generally believed in schools that the way to attain, satisfaction is 
"to learn something." But by leaving the children in our schools in 
liberty we have been able with great clearness to follow them in their 
natural method of spontaneous self-development. 

To have learned something is for the child only a point of departure. 
When he has learned the meaning of an exercise, then he begins to enjoy 
repeating it, and he does repeat it an infinite number of times, with 
the most evident satisfaction. He enjoys executing that act because by 
means of it he is developing his psychic activities. 

There results from the observation of this fact a criticism of what is 

done to-day in many schools. Often, for instance when the pupils are 
questioned, the teacher says to someone who is eager to answer, "No, not 
you, because you know it" and puts her question specially to the pupils 
who she thinks are uncertain of the answer. Those who do not know are 
made to speak, those who do know to be silent. This happens because of 
the general habit of considering the act of knowing something as final. 

And yet how many times it happens to us in ordinary life to _repeat_ the 
very thing we know best, the thing we care most for, the thing to which 
some living force in us responds. We love to sing musical phrases very 
familiar, hence enjoyed and become a part of the fabric of our lives. We 
love to repeat stories of things which please us, which we know very 
well, even though we are quite aware that we are saying nothing new. No 
matter how many times we repeat the Lord's Prayer, it is always new. No 
two persons could be more convinced of mutual love than sweethearts and 
yet they are the very ones who repeat endlessly that they love each 

But in order to repeat in this manner, there must first exist the idea 
to be repeated. A mental grasp of the idea, is indispensable to the 
beginning of _repetition_. The exercise which develops life, consists 
_in the repetition, not in the mere grasp of the idea_. When a child has 
attained this stage, of repeating an exercise, he is on the way to 
self-development, and the external sign of this condition is his 

This phenomenon does not always occur. The same exercises are not 
repeated by children of all ages. In fact, repetition corresponds to a 
_need_. Here steps in the experimental method of education. It is 
necessary to offer those exercises which correspond to the need of 
development felt by an organism, and if the child's age has carried him 
past a certain need, it is never possible to obtain, in its fulness, a 
development which missed its proper moment. Hence children grow up, 
often fatally and irrevocably, imperfectly developed. 

Another very interesting observation is that which relates to the length 
of time needed for the execution of actions. Children, who are 
undertaking something for the first time are extremely slow. Their life 
is governed in this respect by laws especially different from ours. 
Little children accomplish slowly and perseveringly, various complicated 
operations agreeable to them, such as dressing, undressing, cleaning the 
room, washing themselves, setting the table, eating, etc. In all this 
they are extremely patient, overcoming all the difficulties presented 
by an organism still in process of formation. But we, on the other hand, 
noticing that they are "tiring themselves out" or "wasting time" in 
accomplishing something which we would do in a moment and without the 
least effort, put ourselves in the child's place and do it ourselves. 
Always with the same erroneous idea, that the end to be obtained is the 
completion of the action, we dress and wash the child, we snatch out of 
his hands objects which he loves to handle, we pour the soup into his 
bowl, we feed him, we set the table for him. And after such services, we 
consider him with that injustice always practised by those who domineer 
over others even with benevolent intentions, to be incapable and inept. 
We often speak of him as "impatient" simply because we are not patient 
enough to allow his actions to follow laws of time differing from our 
own; we call him "tyrannical" exactly because we employ tyranny towards 
him. This stain, this false imputation, this calumny on childhood has 
become an integral part of the theories concerning childhood, in reality 
so patient and gentle. 

The child, like every strong creature fighting for the right to live, 
rebels against whatever offends that occult impulse within him which is 
the voice of nature, and which he ought to obey; and he shows by violent 
actions, by screaming and weeping that he has been overborne and forced 
away from his mission in life. He shows himself to be a rebel, a 
revolutionist, an iconoclast, against those who do not understand him 
and who, fancying that they are helping him, are really pushing him 
backward in the highway of life. Thus even the adult who loves him, 

rivets about his neck another calumny, confusing his defence of his 
molested life with a form of innate naughtiness characteristic of little 

What would become of us if we fell into the midst of a population of 
jugglers, or of lightning-change impersonators of the variety-hall? What 
should we do if, as we continued to act in our usual way, we saw 
ourselves assailed by these sleight-of-hand performers, hustled into our 
clothes, fed so rapidly that we could scarcely swallow, if everything we 
tried to do was snatched from our hands and completed in a twinkling and 
we ourselves reduced to impotence and to a humiliating inertia? Not 
knowing how else to express our confusion we would defend ourselves with 
blows and yells from these madmen, and they having only the best will in 
the world to serve us, would call us haughty, rebellious, and incapable 
of doing anything. We, who know our own _milieu_, would say to those 
people, "Come into our countries and you will see the splendid 
civilisation we have established, you will see our wonderful 
achievements." These jugglers would admire us infinitely, hardly able to 
believe their eyes, as they observed our world, so full of beauty and 
activity, so well regulated, so peaceful, so kindly, but all so much 
slower than theirs. 

Something of this sort occurs between children and adults. 

It is exactly in the repetition of the exercises that the education of 
the senses consists; their aim is not that the child shall _know_ 
colours, forms and the different qualities of objects, but that he 
refine his senses through an exercise of attention, of comparison, of 
judgment. These exercises are true intellectual gymnastics. Such 
gymnastics, reasonably directed by means of various devices, aid in the 
formation of the intellect, just as physical exercises fortify the 
general health and quicken the growth of the body. The child who trains 
his various senses separately, by means of external stimuli, 
concentrates his attention and develops, piece by piece, his mental 
activities, just as with separately prepared movements he trains his 
muscular activities. These mental gymnastics are not merely 
psycho-sensory, but they prepare the way for spontaneous association of 
ideas, for ratiocination developing out of definite knowledge, for a 
harmoniously balanced intellect. They are the powder-trains that bring 
about those mental explosions which delight the child so intensely when 
he makes discoveries in the world about him, when he, at the same time, 
ponders over and glories in the new things which are revealed to him in 
the outside world, and in the exquisite emotions of his own growing 
consciousness; and finally when there spring up within him, almost by a 
process of spontaneous ripening, like the internal phenomena of growth, 
the external products of learning — writing and reading. 

I happened once to see a two-year-old child, son of a medical colleague 
of mine, who, fairly fleeing away from his mother who had brought him to 
me, threw himself on the litter of things covering his father's desk, 
the rectangular writing-pad, the round cover of the ink-well. I was 
touched to see the intelligent little creature trying his best to go 
through the exercises which our children repeat with such endless 
pleasure till they have fully committed them to memory. The father and 
the mother pulled the child away, reproving him, and explaining that 
there was no use trying to keep that child from handling his father's 
desk-furniture, "The child is restless and naughty." How often we see 
all children reproved because, though they are told not to, they will 
"take hold of everything." Now, it is precisely by means of guiding and 
developing this natural instinct "to take hold of everything," and to 
recognise the relations of geometrical figures, that we prepare our 
little four-year-old men for the joy and triumph they experience later 
over the phenomenon of spontaneous writing. 

The child who throws himself on the writing-pad, the cover to the 
ink-well, and such objects, always struggling in vain to attain his 
desire, always hindered and thwarted by people stronger than he, always 

excited and weeping over the failure of his desperate efforts, _is 
wasting_ nervous force. His parents are mistaken if they think that such 
a child ever gets any real rest, just as they are mistaken when they 
call "naughty" the little man longing for the foundations of his 
intellectual edifice. The children in our schools are the ones who are 
really at rest, ardently and blessedly free to take out and put back in 
their right places or grooves, the geometric figures offered to their 
instinct for higher self-development; and they, rejoicing in the most 
entire spiritual calm, have no notion that their eyes and hands are 
initiating them into the mysteries of a new language. 

The majority of our children become calm as they go through such 
exercises, because their nervous system is at rest. Then we say that 
such children are quiet and good; external discipline, so eagerly sought 
after in ordinary schools is more than achieved. 

However, as a calm man and a self-disciplined man are not one and the 
same, so here the fact which manifests itself externally by the calm of 
the children is in reality a phenomenon merely physical and partial 
compared to the real _self-discipline_ which is being developed in them. 

Often (and this is another misconception) we think all we need to do, to 
obtain a voluntary action from a child, is to order him to do it. We 
pretend that this phenomenon of a forced voluntary action exists, and we 
call this pretext, "the obedience of the child." We find little children 
specially disobedient, or rather their resistance, by the time they are 
four or five years old, has become so great that we are in despair and 
are almost tempted to give up trying to make them obey. We force 
ourselves to praise to little children "the virtue of obedience" a 
virtue which, according to our accepted prejudices, should belong 
specially to infancy, should be the "infantile virtue" yet we fail to 
learn anything from the fact that we are led to emphasize it so strongly 
because we can only with the greatest difficulty make children practise 

It is a very common mistake, this of trying to obtain by means of 
prayers, or orders, or violence, what is difficult, or impossible to 
get. Thus, for instance, we ask little children to be obedient, and 
little children in their turn ask for the moon. 

We need only reflect that this "obedience" which we treat so lightly, 
occurs later, as a natural tendency in older children, and then as an 
instinct in the adult to realise that it springs spontaneously into 
being, and that it is one of the strongest instincts of humanity. We 
find that society rests on a foundation of marvellous obedience, and 
that civilisation goes forward on a road made by obedience. Human 
organisations are often founded on an abuse of obedience, associations 
of criminals have obedience as their key-stone. 

How many times social problems centre about the necessity of rousing man 
from a state of "obedience" which has led him to be exploited and 
brutalised ! 

Obedience naturally is _sacrifice_. We are so accustomed to an infinity 
of obedience in the world, to a condition of self-sacrifice, to a 
readiness for renunciation, that we call matrimony the "blessed 
condition," although it is made up of obedience and self-sacrifice. The 
soldier, whose lot in life is to obey if it kills him is envied by the 
common people, while we consider anyone who tries to escape from 
obedience as a malefactor or a madman. Besides, how many people have had 
the deeply spiritual experience of an ardent desire to obey something or 
some person leading them along the path of life — more than this, a 
desire to sacrifice something for the sake of this obedience. 

It is therefore entirely natural that, loving the child, we should point 
out to him that obedience is the law of life, and there is nothing 
surprising in the anxiety felt by nearly everyone who is confronted with 
the characteristic disobedience of little children. But obedience can 

only be reached through a complex formation of the psychic personality. 
To obey, it is necessary not only to wish to obey, but also to know how 
to. Since, when a command to do a certain thing is given, we presuppose 
a corresponding active or inhibitive power of the child, it is plain 
that obedience must follow the formation of the will and of the mind. To 
prepare, in detail, this formation by means of detached exercises is 
therefore indirectly, to urge the child towards obedience. The method 
which is the subject of this book contains in every part an exercise for 
the will-power, when the child completes co-ordinated actions directed 
towards a given end, when he achieves something he set out to do, when 
he repeats patiently his exercises, he is training his positive 
will-power. Similarly, in a very complicated series of exercises he is 
establishing through activity his powers of inhibition; for instance in 
the "lesson of silence," which calls for a long continued inhibition of 
many actions, while the child is waiting to be called and later for a 
rigorous self-control when he is called and would like to answer 
joyously and run to his teacher, but instead is perfectly silent, moves 
very carefully, taking the greatest pains not to knock against chair or 
table or to make a noise. 

Other inhibitive exercises are the arithmetical ones, when the child 
having drawn a number by lot, must take from the great mass of objects 
before him, apparently entirely at his disposition, only the quantity 
corresponding to the number in his hand, whereas (as experience has 
proved) he would _like_ to take the greatest number possible. 
Furthermore if he chances to draw the zero he sits patiently with empty 
hands. Still another training for the inhibitive will-power is in "the 
lesson of zero" when the child, called upon to come up zero times and 
give zero kisses, stands quiet, conquering with a visible effort the 
instinct which would lead him to "obey" the call. The child at our 
school dinners who carries the big tureen full of hot soup, isolates 
himself from every external stimulant which might disturb him, resists 
his childish impulse to run and jump, does not yield to the temptation 
to brush away the fly on his face, and is entirely concentrated on the 
great responsibility of not dropping or tipping the tureen. A little 
thing of four and a half, every time he set the tureen down on a table 
so that the little guests might help themselves, gave a hop and a skip, 
then took up the tureen again to carry it to another table, repressing 
himself to a sober walk. In spite of his desire to play he never left 
his task before he had passed soup to the twenty tables, and he never 
forgot the vigilance necessary to control his actions. 

Will-power, like all other activities is invigorated and developed 
through methodical exercises, and all our exercises for will-power are 
also mental and practical. To the casual onlooker the child seems to be 
learning exactitude and grace of action, to be refining his senses, to 
be learning how to read and write; but much more profoundly he is 
learning how to become his own master, how to be a man of prompt and 
resolute will. 

We often hear it said that a child's will should be "broken" that the 
best education for the will of the child is to learn to give it up to 
the will of adults. Leaving out of the question the injustice which is 
at the root of every act of tyranny, this idea is irrational because the 
child cannot give up what he does not possess. We prevent him in this 
way from forming his own will-power, and we commit the greatest and most 
blameworthy mistake. He never has time or opportunity to test himself, 
to estimate his own force and his own limitations because he is always 
interrupted and subjected to our tyranny, and languishes in injustice 
because he is always being bitterly reproached for not having what 
adults are perpetually destroying. 

There springs up as a consequence of this, childish timidity, which is a 
moral malady acquired by a will which could not develop; and which with 
the usual calumny with which the tyrant consciously or not, covers up 
his own mistakes, we consider as an inherent trait of childhood. The 
children in our schools are never timid. One of their most fascinating 
qualities is the frankness with which they treat people, with which they 

go on working in the presence of others, and showing their work frankly, 
calling for sympathy. That moral monstrosity, a repressed and timid 
child, who is at his ease nowhere except alone with his playmates, or 
with street urchins, because his will-power was allowed to grow only 
in the shade, disappears in our schools. He presents an example of 
thoughtless barbarism, which resembles the artificial compression of the 
bodies of those children intended for "court dwarfs," museum 
monstrosities or buffoons. Yet this is the treatment under which nearly 
all the children of our time are growing up spiritually. 

As a matter of fact in all the pedagogical congresses one hears that the 
great peril of our time is the lack of individual character in the 
scholars; yet these alarmists do not point out that this condition is 
due to the way in which education is managed, to scholastic slavery, 
which has for its specialty the repression of will-power and of force of 
character. The remedy is simply to enfranchise human development. 

Besides the exercises it offers for developing will-power, the other 
factor in obedience is the capacity to perform the act it becomes 
necessary to obey. One of the most interesting observations made by my 
pupil Anna Maccheroni (at first in the school in Milan and then in that 
in the Via Guisti in Rome), relates to the connection between obedience 
in a child and his "knowing how." Obedience appears in the child as a 
latent instinct as soon as his personality begins to take form. For 
instance, a child begins to try a certain exercise and suddenly some 
time he goes through it perfectly; he is delighted, stares at it, and 
wishes to do it over again, but for some time the exercise is not a 
success. Then comes a time when he can do it nearly every time he tries 
voluntarily but makes mistakes if someone else asks him to do it. The 
external command does not as yet produce the voluntary act. When, 
however, the exercise always succeeds, with absolute certainty, then an 
order from someone else brings about on the child's part, orderly 
adequate action; that is, the child _is able_ each time to execute the 
command received. That these facts (with variations in individual cases) 
are laws of psychical development is apparent from everyone's experience 
with children in school or at home. 

One often hears a child say, "I did do such and such a thing but now I 
can't!" and a teacher disappointed by the incompetence of a pupil will 
say, "Yet that child was doing it all right — and now he can't!" 

Finally there is the period of complete development in which the 
capacity to perform some operation is permanently acquired. There are, 
therefore, three periods: a first, subconscious one, when in the 
confused mind of the child, order produces itself by a mysterious inner 
impulse from out the midst of disorder, producing as an external result 
a completed act, which, however, being outside the field of 
consciousness, cannot be reproduced at will; a second, conscious period, 
when there is some action on the part of the will which is present 
during the process of the development and establishing of the acts; and 
a third period when the will can direct and cause the acts, thus 
answering the command from someone else. 

Now, obedience follows a similar sequence. When in the first period of 
spiritual disorder, the child does not obey it is exactly as if he were 
psychically deaf, and out of hearing of commands. In the second period 
he would like to obey, he looks as though he understood the command and 
would like to respond to it, but cannot, — or at least does not always 
succeed in doing it, is not "quick to mind" and shows no pleasure when 
he does. In the third period he obeys at once, with enthusiasm, and as 
he becomes more and more perfect in the exercises he is proud that he 
knows how to obey. This is the period in which he runs joyously to obey, 
and leaves at the most imperceptible request whatever is interesting him 
so that he may quit the solitude of his own life and enter, with the act 
of obedience into the spiritual existence of another. 

To this order, established in a consciousness formerly chaotic, are due 
all the phenomena of discipline and of mental development, which open 

out like a new Creation. From minds thus set in order, when "night is 
separated from day" come sudden emotions and mental feats which recall 
the Biblical story of Creation. The child has in his mind not only what 
he has laboriously acquired, but the free gifts which flow from 
spiritual life, the first flowers of affection, of gentleness, of 
spontaneous love for righteousness which perfume the souls of such 
children and give promise of the "fruits of the spirit" of St. 
Paul — "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering 
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness." 

They are virtuous because they exercise patience in repeating their 
exercises, long-suffering in yielding to the commands and desires of 
others, good in rejoicing in the well-being of others without jealousy 
or rivalry; they live, doing good in joyousness of heart and in peace, 
and they are eminently, marvellously industrious. But they are not proud 
of such righteousness because they were not conscious of acquiring it as 
a moral superiority. They have set their feet in the path leading to 
righteousness, simply because it was the only way to attain true 
self-development and learning; and they enjoy with simple hearts the 
fruits of peace that are to be gathered along that path. 

These are the first outlines of an experiment which shows a form of 
indirect discipline in which there is substituted for the critical and 
sermonizing teacher a rational organisation of work and of liberty for 
the child. It involves a conception of life more usual in religious 
fields than in those of academic pedagogy, inasmuch as it has recourse 
to the spiritual energies of mankind, but it is founded on work and on 
liberty which are the two paths to all civic progress. 



In the "Children's Houses," the old-time teacher, who wore herself out 
maintaining discipline of immobility, and who wasted her breath in loud 
and continual discourse, has disappeared. 

For this teacher we have substituted the _didactic material_, which 
contains within itself the control of errors and which makes 
auto-education possible to each child. The teacher has thus become a 
_director_ of the spontaneous work of the children. She is not a 
_passive_ force, a _silent_ presence. 

The children are occupied each one in a different way, and the 
directress, watching them, can make psychological observations which, if 
collected in an orderly way and according to scientific standards, 
should do much toward the reconstruction of child psychology and the 
development of experimental psychology. I believe that I have by my 
method established the conditions necessary to the development of 
scientific pedagogy; and whoever adopts this method opens, in doing so, 
a laboratory of experimental pedagogy. 

From such work, we must await the positive solution of all those 
pedagogical problems of which we talk to-day. For through such work 
there has already come the solution of some of these very questions: 
that of the liberty of the pupils; auto-education; the establishment of 
harmony between the work and activities of home life and school tasks, 
making both work together for the education of the child. 

The problem of religious education, the importance of which we do not 
fully realise, should also be solved by positive pedagogy. If religion 
is born with civilisation, its roots must lie deep in human nature. We 
have had most beautiful proof of an instinctive love of knowledge in the 
child, who has too often been misjudged in that he has been considered 

addicted to meaningless play, and games void of thought. The child who 
left the game in his eagerness for knowledge, has revealed himself as a 
true son of that humanity which has been throughout centuries the 
creator of scientific and civil progress. We have belittled the son of 
man by giving him foolish and degrading toys, a world of idleness where 
he is suffocated by a badly conceived discipline. Now, in his liberty, 
the child should show us, as well, whether man is by nature a religious 

To deny, _a priori_, the religions sentiment in man, and to deprive 
humanity of the education of this sentiment, is to commit a pedagogical 
error similar to that of denying, _a priori_, to the child, the love of 
learning for learning's sake. This ignorant assumption led us to 
dominate the scholar, to subject him to a species of slavery, in order 
to render him apparently disciplined. 

The fact that we assume that religions education is only adapted to the 
adult, may be akin to another profound error existing in education 
to-day, namely, that of overlooking the education of the senses at the 
very period when this education is possible. The life of the adult is 
practically an application of the senses to the gathering of sensations 
from the environment. A lack of preparation for this, often results in 
inadequacy in practical life, in that lack of poise which causes so many 
individuals to waste their energies in purposeless effort. Not to form a 
parallel between the education of the senses as a guide to practical 
life, and religious education as a guide to the moral life, but for the 
sake of illustration, let me call attention to how often we find 
inefficiency, instability, among irreligious persons, and how much 
precious individual power is miserably wasted. 

How many men have had this experience! And when that spiritual awakening 
comes late, as it sometimes does, through the softening power of sorrow, 
the mind is unable to establish an equilibrium, because it has grown too 
much accustomed to a life deprived of spirituality. We see equally 
piteous cases of religious fanaticism, or we look upon intimate dramatic 
struggles between the heart, ever seeking its own safe and quiet port, 
and the mind that constantly draws it back to the sea of conflicting 
ideas and emotions, where peace is unknown. These are all psychological 
phenomena of the highest importance; they present, perhaps, the gravest 
of all our human problems. We Europeans are still filled with prejudices 
and hedged about with preconceptions in regard to these matters. We are 
very slaves of thought. We believe that liberty of conscience and of 
thought consists in denying certain sentimental beliefs, while liberty 
never can exist where one struggles to stifle some other thing, but only 
where unlimited expansion is granted; where life is left free and 
untrammelled. He who really does not believe, does not fear that which 
he does not believe, and does not combat that which for him does not 
exist. If he believes and fights, he then becomes an enemy to liberty. 

In America, the great positive scientist, William James, who expounds 
the physiological theory of emotions, is also the man who illustrates 
the psychological importance of religious "conscience." We cannot know 
the future of the progress of thought: here, for example, in the 
"Children's Houses" the triumph of _discipline_ through the conquest of 
liberty and independence marks the foundation of the progress which the 
future will see in the matter of pedagogical methods. To me it offers 
the greatest hope for human redemption through education. 

Perhaps, in the same way, through the conquest of liberty of thought and 
of conscience, we are making our way toward a great religious triumph. 
Experience will show, and the psychological observations made along this 
line in the "Children's Houses" will undoubtedly be of the greatest 
interest . 

This book of methods compiled by one person alone, must be followed by 
many others. It is my hope that, starting from the _individual study of 
the child_ educated with our method, other educators will set forth the 
results of their experiments. These are the pedagogical books which 

await us in the future. 

From the practical side of the school, we have with our methods the 
advantage of being able to teach in one room, children of very different 
ages. In our "Children's Houses" we have little ones of two years and a 
half, who cannot as yet make use of the most simple of the sense 
exercises, and children of five and a half who because of their 
development might easily pass into the third elementary. Each one of 
them perfects himself through his own powers, and goes forward guided by 
that inner force which distinguishes him as an individual. 

One great advantage of such a method is that it will make instruction in 
the rural schools easier, and will be of great advantage in the schools 
in the small provincial towns where there are few children, yet where 
all the various grades are represented. Such schools are not able to 
employ more than one teacher. Our experience shows that one directress 
may guide a group of children varying in development from little ones of 
three years old to the third elementary. Another great advantage lies in 
the extreme facility with which written language may be taught, making 
it possible to combat illiteracy and to cultivate the national tongue. 

As to the teacher, she may remain for a whole day among children in the 
most varying stages of development, just as the mother remains in the 
house with children of all ages, without becoming tired. 

The children work by themselves, and, in doing so, make a conquest of 
active discipline, and independence in all the acts of daily life, just 
as through daily conquests they progress in intellectual development. 
Directed by an intelligent teacher, who watches over their physical 
development as well as over their intellectual and moral progress, 
children are able with our methods to arrive at a splendid physical 
development, and, in addition to this, there unfolds within them, in all 
its perfection, the soul, which distinguishes the human being. 

We have been mistaken in thinking that the natural education of children 
should be purely physical; the soul, too, has its nature, which it was 
intended to perfect in the spiritual life, — the dominating power of 
human existence throughout all time. Our methods take into consideration 
the spontaneous psychic development of the child, and help this in ways 
that observation and experience have shown us to be wise. 

If physical care leads the child to take pleasure in bodily health, 
intellectual and moral care make possible for him the highest spiritual 
joy, and send him forward into a world where continual surprises and 
discoveries await him; not only in the external environment, but in the 
intimate recesses of his own soul. 

It is through such pleasures as these that the ideal man grows, and only 
such pleasures are worthy of a place in the education of the infancy of 

Our children are noticeably different from those others who have grown 
up within the grey walls of the common schools. Our little pupils have 
the serene and happy aspect and the frank and open friendliness of the 
person who feels himself to be master of his own actions. When they run 
to gather about our visitors, speaking to them with sweet frankness, 
extending their little hands with gentle gravity and well-bred 
cordiality, when they thank these visitors for the courtesy they have 
paid us in coming, the bright eyes and the happy voices make us feel 
that they are, indeed, unusual little men. When they display their work 
and their ability, in a confidential and simple way, it is almost as if 
they called for a maternal approbation from all those who watch them. 
Often, a little one will seat himself on the floor beside some visitor 
silently writing his name, and adding a gentle word of thanks. It is as 
if they wished to make the visitor feel the affectionate gratitude which 
is in their hearts. 

When we see all these things and when, above all, we pass with these 

children from the busy activity of the schoolroom at work, into the 
absolute and profound silence which they have learned to enjoy so 
deeply, we are moved in spite of ourselves and feel that we have come in 
touch with the very souls of these little pupils. 

The "Children's House" seems to exert a spiritual influence upon 
everyone. I have seen here, men of affairs, great politicians 
preoccupied with problems of trade and of state, cast off like an 
uncomfortable garment the burden of the world, and fall into a simple 
f orgetf ulness of self. They are affected by this vision of the human 
soul growing in its true nature, and I believe that this is what they 
mean when they call our little ones, wonderful children, happy 
children — the infancy of humanity in a higher stage of evolution than 
our own. I understand how the great English poet Wordsworth, enamoured 
as he was of nature, demanded the secret of all her peace and beauty. It 
was at last revealed to him — the secret of all nature lies in the soul 
of a little child. He holds there the true meaning of that life which 
exists throughout humanity. But this beauty which "lies about us in our 
infancy" becomes obscured; "shades of the prison house, begin to close 
about the growing boy ... at last the man perceives it die away, and 
fade into the light of common day." 

Truly our social life is too often only the darkening and the death of 
the natural life that is in us. These methods tend to guard that 
spiritual fire within man, to keep his real nature unspoiled and to set 
it free from the oppressive and degrading yoke of society. It is a 
pedagogical method informed by the high concept of Immanuel Kant: 
"Perfect art returns to nature." 


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